DETROIT -- Carla McCann knew her son was special even before he first donned a catcher's mask. He beat the odds long before he made it to the Major Leagues.James McCann was given a 1-in-4 chance of surviving birth due to a tear in the amniotic sac early in pregnancy.
DETROIT -- Carla McCann knew her son was special even before he first donned a catcher's mask. He beat the odds long before he made it to the Major Leagues.
James McCann was given a 1-in-4 chance of surviving birth due to a tear in the amniotic sac early in pregnancy. Even if he survived, she was told by doctors, he would most likely have developmental challenges. It was pain all over again for Jim and Carla McCann, who had lost their first child months earlier to a stillbirth.
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"Being people of faith, we decided we were going to see it through," she said. "It was a leap of faith, but it really wasn't more than what people do every day -- putting one foot in front of the other."
For the next six months, Carla took as few steps as possible, staying in bed, watching what she ate, praying at night. Living in Southern California, she watched enough of the 1989-90 Lakers that she jokes that she actually named her son after James Worthy. She watched a lot of Dodgers baseball, too, led by an All-Star catcher named Mike Scioscia.
"She jokes sometimes and says that's why I like baseball so much," McCann said. "That's what she watched when she had me."
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Never could she have imagined then that her son would be a big league backstop himself one day. But to James, she played a major role in his baseball career from its roots.
"As involved as you could get," McCann said. "She was my T-ball coach when I was 4 years old. As I got older, she was the mom that drove to every single tournament, every single game. I don't think she missed a practice until I was in high school. She made a lot of sacrifices to be there, on top of everything else, so that I could do what I loved.
"I definitely think that plays into how special it is for her to see me play in the big leagues now. On top of the birth and doctors saying it wasn't looking good, to how much time and effort she put into me as a kid and my career, she's one of the most proud fans out there."
Yet Carla's pride is for more than how he carries himself on the baseball field. It's also for the work ethic he has shown to get there.
"I think what makes us proud are the choices he makes in his life," she said, "just the way he goes about his business. And he's always been that way. That makes me proud."
McCann was a straight-A student his entire academic career, except for a B in freshman biology in college. He was an All-American catcher at the University of Arkansas who ended up being the Tigers' top Draft pick in 2011. Three years later, he made his Major League debut for the Tigers in Cleveland.
When McCann signs an autograph, he keeps his birth in mind. He signs with his favorite scripture verse, Mark 10:27. The verse ends with, "All things are possible with God."
The one choice Carla had to accept from her son was how a California kid became such a southerner, complete with the accent.
"I knew I was in trouble," she said, "the first time he called and said, 'Hey mama, how are you?'"
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.