Sports Spectrum Weekly

Catcher James McCann joins N.Y. Mets with identity in place as 'a child of God'

The New York Mets, after making James McCann one of their top free-agent prospects, officially got their man. They signed the 30-year-old catcher to a four-year contract on Tuesday.

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In signing with the Mets, McCann leaves the Chicago White Sox, for whom he played the past two seasons after signing there as a free agent in December 2018. He played his first five MLB seasons with the Detroit Tigers, who drafted him in the second round in 2011, but declined to offer him a contract in 2018 after he hit just .220 with 116 strikeouts and only eight home runs and 39 RBIs.

McCann became an All-Star with Chicago in 2019, hitting .316 in the first half of the season. He slumped a bit in the second half, finishing the year hitting .273 with 18 HRs and 60 RBIs. He wasn’t a full-time starter in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but his batting average (.289), on-base percentage (.360) and slugging percentage (.536) were all career highs, thus increasing his value in the free-agent market.

He also significantly improved defensively in 2020. McCann ranked 64th out of 64 in runs saved due to extra strikes with -15 in 2019 (according to Baseball Savant), but last season he improved to sixth overall with +2. According to Sports Illustrated baseball insider Tom Verducci, “It’s been a stunning turnaround” for McCann, who became “one of the most sought-after free agents on the market.”

“Stunning” could also describe McCann’s entry into this world. His parents were 13 weeks pregnant when the doctors discovered that his mother had developed a hole in her amniotic sac. Doctors said the baby had a 25 percent chance of living, and virtually guaranteed that the baby would have some sort of disability. They mentioned abortion, but McCann’s parents never considered it. They had already lost one child to a still birth.

When McCann’s mom delivered a perfectly healthy baby, she looked at the doctors and said, “Not bad for a 1-in-4 chance!”

“God has been protecting me from Day 1,” McCann said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2017. “Man said it was impossible for me to just be here. But God said, ‘Not so.’ Here I am not just alive, but with a platform as an MLB player to share that story.”

His story now includes being a father who also endured a high-risk pregnancy with multiple complications. Three years ago, James and his wife, Jess, had twin boys who were born 10 weeks premature and had to spend seven weeks in the NICU. Throughout the whole pregnancy, however, the McCanns said they had a peace about everything. They knew God was in control.

Earlier this month, Christian and Kane celebrated their third birthday. “Those long days and weeks spent in the NICU following their birth seem like a distant memory at times,” McCann wrote on Instagram, “but it’s such a special story that exemplifies God’s love and protective hand in our lives. God is so good and has blessed us tremendously!”

 

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Three decades after his own birth story, McCann signs every autograph with Mark 10:27, which says, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.'”

“Human nature is to get caught in the ups and downs … but the best thing that I’ve learned over all the years is that baseball is what I do, it’s not who I am,” McCann said on the podcast. “Finding that identity of who you are is the key, and that identity is that I’m a child of God. … I can be the same day in and day out because of where I place my identity, and that’s in Jesus.”

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