Heading into spring training, there was no guarantee that James McCann would make the Tigers’ roster.
Fast forward six months, and the rookie is handling the majority of Detroit’s catching duties.
“Nothing was guaranteed during spring training and I just tried to approach it every day, just find a way to get better so I could be standing at this point one day,” McCann said. “And each and every day, I still take the same attitude.”
That attitude has helped McCann take strides since he was first called up to the big leagues last September. He appeared in just nine games with the Tigers in 2014, batting .250 (3-12).
McCann made Detroit’s roster out of spring training this year, and when Alex Avila went on the disabled list indefinitely with a knee injury in May, the 25-year-old took advantage of the opportunity. And he hasn’t looked back since.
Through 88 games in 2015, McCann has recorded 81 hits and six home runs with a .266 batting average.
What has made the difference in just one short year? McCann didn’t change his physical training routine, but he’s always looking to challenge himself mentally.
“I’m always trying to gain more knowledge,” McCann said. “The more people I meet, being able to come up in September last year and learn new things and put that new knowledge to practice has been a big difference.”
McCann credits his ability to consistently learn many small skills as his career progresses to develop into a complete player.
Nothing, though, can take the place of experience.
“To go from never catching in the big leagues to having caught, obviously not a lot, but having that experience is how you get started,” McCann said. “So the experience and the knowledge of in-game situations is the biggest but also confidence, as far as feeling like I belong. Guys in this clubhouse have done an extremely good job of making me welcome, of making me feel like I matter as a rookie, that I’m an important part of the team.”
McCann has certainly grown into a pivotal player for the Tigers, whether he’s hitting in-field home runs, walk-off home runs or catching one-hitters. McCann caught Alfredo Simon’s one-hitter on Aug. 20, and then experienced complete anguish during Justin Verlander’s one-hitter Wednesday night.
“That was heartbreaking, to get that close and lose it the way we did,” McCann said of Chris Iannetta’s leadoff double in the ninth inning that ended Verlander’s bid for his third no-hitter. “Definitely heartbreaking. But it’s special knowing that at this stage in my career I’ve been able to do that and I hope that I have more opportunities.”
If McCann maintains his positive attitude and commitment to improve from season to season, there’s no doubt that the rookie has the potential to be an important part of the Tigers’ rosters for years to come.