10/07/05 12:35 AM ET
McCann goes deep against Clemens
Rookie catcher slugs three-run shot off future Hall of Famer
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
Not only did the baby-faced 21-year-old catcher belt a three-run homer in his first postseason at-bat -- off legendary Roger Clemens, no less -- the historic ball happened to deflect into the Braves' bullpen beyond right-center field. So rather than a fan bringing home McCann's benchmark blast, the ball rolled into the hands of fellow rookie Macay McBride.
McBride flipped the ball to McCann in the joyous clubhouse following the Braves' critical 7-1 victory over the Astros in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.
"McBride caught it," McCann said. "It bounced into the bullpen."
The cost of returning the ball to its proper owner?
"My friendship," McCann said.
Where's the ball going?
"Probably in a little case in the house," McCann said of his most famous keepsake.
Once again, Atlanta got a big boost from a rookie.
Game 2 swung in the Braves' favor on McCann's three-run shot off Clemens, which gave Atlanta a 3-1 lead that starter John Smoltz wasn't about to surrender.
McCann became the first Brave to homer in his first postseason at-bat. The feat was accomplished three times last year.
As if that accomplishment isn't historic enough, McCann connected off arguably the greatest pitcher in history. Taking Clemens deep is something McCann dreamed about as a kid while playing ball in the yard and making up imaginary opponents. Actually doing it is something he struggles to put into words.
"The history behind him is greater than any pitcher I've faced," McCann said. "I guess I got lucky. He got a pitch up in the zone."
With two on, two outs and Smoltz on deck, McCann was sitting on a fastball after Clemens fell behind, 2-0. Sure enough, he got a fat fastball and deposited it 409 feet away over the wall in right-center field.
Homers in first career Division Series at-bat
On contact, McCann knew it was gone, and the elation spilled over to his teammates, who pushed him out for a curtain call.
"It reminded me of my first Major League at-bat," McCann said of the emotions he felt stepping to the plate. "It's the same feeling, the magnitude. You can't really feel your legs. You just try to calm yourself down as much as possible."
McCann's blast set a tempo the Braves never relinguished.
Born on Feb. 20, 1984, McCann was about 12 weeks old when Clemens made his Major League debut with the Red Sox on May 15, 1984.
"[It was] a very hittable pitch," Clemens said. "Guys on this level, whether he's 21 or 41, are going to hit that. He took advantage of it. I've given up some home runs in my career, but it was probably pretty exciting for that kid. I know the crowd definitely got into it, and that's what you want to keep away from when you're pitching on the road."
Andruw Jones got the second-inning rally going with a single, and he advanced to second on Adam LaRoche's sacrifice bunt. Jeff Francoeur had a key at-bat, working out a walk. With two outs, McCann stepped up and delivered.
"He's been the best pitcher in baseball -- he and Smoltz," McCann said. "It's just something I'll never forget. With the pitcher on deck and two outs, we had runners in scoring position. I was definitely going to go up and hack and try to get a bloop hit or something."
The trot around the bases he said he wished could last forever.
"It's going to be in his scrapbook the rest of his career," Smoltz said. "Roger Clemens is pretty much in a class by himself."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.