California native and current Razorback junior catcher James McCann had a choice to stay home or travel across the country to play his college baseball.
"The best decision I have ever made was to leave California and come to Arkansas," McCann said. "By far, the best decision I have ever made in my life. If I could go back and do it again, I would do it 100 times out of 100 times."
The former Santa Barbara Dos Pueblos prep star and current team captain played in the College World Series as a freshman and came up just one round short of a return trip there last season.
"It's been a phenomenal three years," McCann said. "I can't believe the three years is coming down to an end, but like I said it is the best decision I have ever made.
"…Physically I have grown from a boy into a man," McCann added. "Mentally I have surpassed where I came in at and that's a credit to the coaching staff and the players I have had around me and the experience that I have gotten playing games."
McCann (6-3, 210), named the SEC's Scholar Athlete of the Year with his 3.96 grade point average, has worked hard to help gather current and future Razorbacks.
"I have told recruits that have come in that if you are looking to play at the next level then there is no better place than Arkansas to come to and get yourself ready for the next level," McCann said.
Ironically, McCann – named to the SEC's All Tournament team last week - could finish his career out West as Arkansas (38-20) participates in the Tempe Regional.
But that is certainly not the plan for Razorback junior catcher, whose team starts its quest for College World Series berth with a 4 p.m. game against Charlotte (42-14).
"It's nice, but I was disappointed because I was hoping to have one more time here at Baum Stadium," McCann said. "It is nice to be back on the West Coast for my family and I should be able to get a lot of family there for the regional. We are not planning on losing. We are planning on it not being our last series."
McCann is expected to be a high draft choice in next Monday's Major League Baseball Draft, but has been trying to put that out of his mind.
"I try not to," McCann said. "It's tough. You finish up the classes and you kind of set back and say ‘man, that might be my last class. I found out we were not hosting and I thought back to my last games here. But maybe we can get a Super. You never know what can happen in that Austin Regional.
"My goal is to get this team to Omaha," McCann added. "I want to go out on a high note. That's all I am trying to focus on. Everything else will take care of itself."
McCann, a semi-finalist for the Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top college backstop, has seen his batting average jump from .286 last season to .309 this season and he has six homers and 33 RBIs.
He's also stolen nine bases in 2011 after just three a season ago, thrown out 15 base runners and committed only four errors.
"(It's) experience and working with Coach Butler," McCann said of his higher average. "Coach Butler and I have worked a lot and he has done a lot to help me out. It's a different approach – you've got to stay away from going for the long ball and hit more line drives."
The big thing has been adjustment with how he gets his swing going.
"I added a leg lift to my stance," McCann said. "Instead of being a stride guy, I kind of have a leg lift now. And I don't start with an open stance. I start even and have that leg lift. What that has done is give me a trigger for my swing. That is a credit to Coach Butler."
McCann's influence will be felt in Northwest Arkansas long after he is gone and not just because of his on-the-field heroics.
It is because of his faith and involvement in the community – as evidenced by hitting a three-run, walk-off homer against LSU and then going straight out to give his testimony to a group of high school students on hand at Baum Stadium for FCA Day.
"I feel like God has given me a wonderful platform to work from, playing at a place like this, advancing to the next level with the platform I have been given to reach out to the fans," McCann said. "It is a tremendous platform and I take great pride in that to make sure I can make an impact in other people's lives from the platform I have been given."
The Right Decision
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