HOUSTON -- Two years removed from last playing in Atlanta, the ballpark is new and most of Astros catcher Brian McCann's former Braves teammates have left, he says.More than 15 years after the Braves drafted the slugging catcher in the second round of the 2002 Draft, McCann -- who last
HOUSTON -- Two years removed from last playing in Atlanta, the ballpark is new and most of Astros catcher Brian McCann's former Braves teammates have left, he says.
More than 15 years after the Braves drafted the slugging catcher in the second round of the 2002 Draft, McCann -- who last played in Atlanta in 2015 while with the Yankees -- has fond memories of his team from 2005-13.
"There's too many," he said. "Getting to play for Bobby Cox. Getting to play with Chipper Jones, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. Those things rank high on my list."
When McCann returns to Atlanta in an Astros uniform for a two-game series on Tuesday and Wednesday at SunTrust Park -- not Turner Field -- it will be special in a new way.
"I'm ready to see this new ballpark. I've got people that are like family to me that are still there," he said. "To come up through that organization and play there for nine years, they hold a special place in my heart."
In 2017, McCann is serving as a veteran voice in the Astros' clubhouse and behind the plate, as well as a run-producing left-handed bat smacked in the middle of the batting order on the winningest team in baseball.
McCann has been a pitch-picking specialist for a young core of the Astros' pitching staff, which leads the American League in strikeout at 852 and has the league's third-best team ERA at 3.91. His bat's provided 42 RBIs, the second-most among AL catchers, and he is on pace for more than 20 home runs and 80 RBIs this season.
To newly selected All-Star pitcher Lance McCullers -- the Astros' stud breaking-ball wiz -- his 33-year-old batterymate deserves recognition.
"Mac should be in this game, too," McCullers said. "I think when you think of an All-Star, you think of people who impact the team, and I don't think anyone has impacted this team much more than Brian McCann."
To say the least, when McCann returns to Atlanta with the Astros, he'll be ready to say hello to old faces, those who groomed him into the seven-time All-Star catcher he's been known to be in the Majors since his MLB debut in 2005.
"I'm looking forward to it," McCann said. "I always enjoy going back and seeing the guys that I've known there for forever."
Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.