Brian McCann has quickly established himself as one of the game's top catchers. Just a couple weeks shy of his 26th birthday, the Braves backstop has already earned four All-Star selections and garnered three Silver Slugger Awards.
While preparing for his fifth full season at the Major League level, McCann recently sat down with MLB.com to discuss the upcoming season and a number of other topics, including his appreciation for Twins catcher Joe Mauer and Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun.
MLB.com: What excites you most as you and your teammates prepare for this upcoming season?
McCann: Last year, we found out that we can really play and be contenders. That was the first time since my first season that we were able to go out and play with the best in the game.
MLB.com: You helped the Braves win the last of their unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles in 2005. What has allowed the Phillies to capture the past three National League East titles?
McCann: They have superstars up and down their lineup. A team like theirs comes around once every 50 years for an organization. Then they went out and got Roy Halladay, who is the best pitcher in the game. So they're playing for the now, and a lot of them are homegrown players.
MLB.com: The Braves were long recognized as an organization which benefited from a fertile Minor League system. With Tommy Hanson and Jason Heyward, does the organization once again have the chance to gain great benefits from its top homegrown talent?
McCann: Heyward has a chance to be a superstar, and Hanson showed last year that he can be one of the game's best pitchers. With those kinds of players, you have a chance to build dynasties. You also can't forget that Jair Jurrjens is just 23 years old. He's been just awesome the past two years. It's good to know you could have two young guys like Hanson and Jurrjens in your rotation for a long time.
MLB.com: What would you like to change about the game of baseball?
McCann: I'm not a fan of the DH (designated hitter). I think the American League should let the pitcher hit. It makes for a better game and a quicker game. There's just so much more strategy involved.
MLB.com: Do you feel disadvantaged when you have to play Interleague games in American League parks?
McCann: Yeah, it feels like the AL teams have an extra player. They got their DHs who are hitting 30 homers. On the other side, the NL teams are using a bench player to fill the same role as this guy who is supposed to go deep 30-plus times per season.
MLB.com: Which Major League player do you like to watch play the game?
McCann: I'm a big fan of Ryan Braun's. I think his approach to hitting is as good as it gets. I got to play with him in the WBC. He works hard. He's fun to watch from a distance and he was great to have as a teammate.
MLB.com: Which pitcher do you dread facing?
McCann: J.C. Romero. He's the toughest guy that I have had to face. I just can't pick it up with him.
MLB.com: Usually you have the opportunity to rest during an afternoon game that follows an evening game. On those rare occasions when you have to play in these games, what does it feel like?
McCann: When you wake up, you're still pretty sore from the night before. But it's all part of the position. That is why you don't get catchers who put up really big numbers. That why what Joe Mauer does to me is very, very, very impressive.
MLB.com: There have been some big numbers linked to the long-term contract that Mauer could sign later this year. Knowing what he goes through as a catcher, should he be one of the game's highest-paid players?
McCann: Absolutely. He takes a pounding and plays at a top level. If you're not a catcher, you don't know what it's like to play beat up or play with a sore toe because of a foul ball or just the bruises that a catcher gets on a nightly basis. To hit .365 with 28 homers like he did last year, in my mind, he was the MVP of the league.
MLB.com: You've mentioned how tough it can be to be a catcher. Are you proud to say that you've been able to play the position in the Majors?
McCann: I love it and I cherish it more than I ever have. I love how so much of the game relies on your ability to call a game.
MLB.com: You've signaled for an enormous amount of various pitchers throughout your young career and had the pleasure of catching both John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. But is it safe to say your single greatest moment was the two-out, three-run homer you hit off Roger Clemens in Game 2 of the 2005 National League Division Series?
McCann: Yeah, that would have to be it. It was great to be able to play in the playoffs there during my first season. But it's made it that much tougher not to return to the postseason since then.
MLB.com: With this being Bobby Cox's last year as a manager, there's been a lot of talk about how nice it would be to see him take his final team back to the playoffs. Because this is Bobby's last, do you view this season as being extra special?
McCann: Yeah. A legend has said this is going to be his last season, and we want him to go out with a season to remember. When I look around at what we have, I think we have a team that can really help him go out with a great season.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.