ChopTalk Q&A with Brian McCann
Braves catcher discusses weight loss, plan for 2009 and more
ChopTalk: Did you know about winning the Silver Slugger Award [voted by managers and coaches as the best hitting catcher in the National League for the second time in three years] a couple of days before the news was released [on Nov. 13]?
McCann: Yeah, they called two days before the news came out, but they told me not to tell anyone. So, I didn't. But then on the night before it was going to be announced, I was talking to my dad, and he said, "I probably won't be able to sleep tonight thinking about the award." So, I told him, "Sleep well, Dad. I won it." It was cool. Obviously, it's something I'm proud of.
I've never played for awards, but it's nice to know that people notice the numbers you put up.
ChopTalk: You've lost 20 pounds since the end of the season. What was the reason behind the desire to lose weight?
McCann: Well, I was pretty sore at the end of this season. I've always been heavy, and I knew that if I wanted to catch for my whole career, I'd need to lose weight and reduce the pressure on my knees. I've wanted to do this for years, but it was always so hard to stay on a diet. I'd be on it for three to five days and say, "Forget it." This year, I've been able to stick with it. I want to stay at a certain weight all season long, around 225 pounds.
ChopTalk: How do you plan to maintain the weight?
McCann: Losing weight and maintaining it all comes down to diet for me. We're eating a lot of chicken breasts, tuna and lean fish, which was all stuff I didn't eat much of before. I don't have a problem with working out and working hard, but I used to eat a lot of junk food. This has been the first time I've been able to pass on the "bad foods."
ChopTalk: What are the "bad foods" for you?
McCann: Really anything like junk food, fast food and late-night eating. The food they set out for us after games is really good. Some of it's healthy, and some of it's not so healthy. But I'll have to pass up that bad stuff next year. I really love pizza, so one day a week -- on Sunday -- I'll have pizza for dinner while I¹m watching football.
ChopTalk: Have you made changes to your workout routine?
McCann: I'm lifting weights like I did last year, with my brother Brad and Mark DeRosa. But I run three days a week on the treadmill. I usually run about 20 to 25 minutes, so it's probably about two miles. It gets my heart rate up and burns a lot of extra calories. I figure it can't hurt, since the more weight I take off, the less stress it puts on my knees. I'm only 24 years old, so I think I'm starting this early enough that it will impact my career.
ChopTalk: You have mentioned you want to play catcher your entire career. Why is that so important to you?
McCann: It's what I know. I love the position. I got to the big leagues playing catcher. To me, it's like you're in charge out there -- kind of like a quarterback on a football team. You make suggestions to the pitchers about how to pitch guys, and I love that part about [the position]. You're always involved in the game.
ChopTalk: Are you concerned that you don't know who your starting rotation is yet? You don't even know who you'll be catching?
McCann: I'm not, really. I know [general manager] Frank Wren is doing everything in his power to bring in some front-line talent. It would be great to get a proven guy with a strong track record. Pitching is how you win games. It's hard for our club to compete, financially, with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs of the world, but Atlanta is a great place to play, and we have the talent in our organization. We need to get a few pieces, and we'll be in the mix.
ChopTalk: You're part of the core group of players the Braves are rebuilding around. Do you feel ready to be a leader of that type of team?
McCann: I'm definitely ready for leadership and ready to see our team succeed. I grew up in Atlanta and watched what happened for a decade and a half. I was in high school when those teams were winning. The day I was drafted by the Braves [in the second round of the 2002 First-year Player Draft] was one of the happiest days of my life, and I want to be part of bringing those championship teams back to Atlanta.
ChopTalk: It looks like one of the big pieces of the Braves of the future will probably be Minor League pitcher Tommy Hanson.
McCann: It's incredible what that guy has done this year! From what I've heard, I've not seen him pitch myself, but I hear he is the real deal. We're all excited about Tommy and the other players in the Minor League system, some of them in Double-A, who may be ready to come to Atlanta pretty soon. I can't wait to get to Spring Training to catch Hanson and some of the other guys and see what they've got. Guys like [Hanson] don't come along every year. He throws 94-95 mph and has command. That's special. He could be a future No. 1 starter.
ChopTalk: Have you heard whether Hanson will come to Atlanta to throw before Spring Training?
McCann: I haven't heard that, but I know there are a lot of people who are looking forward to seeing him throw.
ChopTalk: What about your defense? What are you working on there?
McCann: Throwing out runners at second is the thing I'm working on the most. Getting runners out only 22 percent of the time isn't getting it done.
Hopefully, what I'm doing will make me quicker and more athletic, but I'm also throwing more long toss, putting more emphasis on catching drills. No matter what you do in the offseason, though, you're never going to prepare for nine innings of baseball until you can play nine innings of baseball.
It's the best preparation. So, the month and a half of Spring Training is where I focus on getting ready. The endurance I'm developing from running will only help.
ChopTalk: You got married in December 2007, so this past season was your first one as a married man. How did things change?
McCann: I think life became simpler. It's great to have someone to come home to, whether you had a good game or not. But those times when you didn't have a good game, at least you're not up all night analyzing what went wrong. If I complained, Ashley was always there to remind me that I'm living a dream.
So, I'm not losing sleep over stuff, and I get to live with my best friend.
This article appears in ChopTalk magazine. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.