KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Brian McCann was the Braves’ best power hitter in 2009, even when his vision problems were so severe he sometimes saw more than one ball coming from the pitcher.
The four-time All-Star catcher says he can’t wait to see how much better he can be now that laser surgery has restored his vision.
No more failed attempts to wear contact lenses. No more experiments with glasses under his catcher’s mask.
It’s no wonder McCann has carried a big smile through the start of spring training.
“It feels great,” McCann said of his restored vision.
He had his first laser surgery in 2007 but had difficulty with blurred vision at the start of last season. He couldn’t use contacts and then struggled to find glasses he could wear under his catcher’s mask. He often had to wipe sweat and fog off the glasses.
“It was tough,” McCann said. “It wasn’t fun to go through. It definitely affected me behind the plate and it affected my hitting.”
Braves manager Bobby Cox said McCann at times complained of standing in the batter’s box and seeing more than one ball coming from the pitcher.
“He went to bat several times and said ‘There’s a couple out there,”’ Cox said Saturday. “He had us scared pretty good.”
McCann said he also suffered while catching, unable to stop pitches he’d normally handle.
“There’s a lot of things that happened,” McCann said. “That’s why I got the surgery done. I didn’t want to go through it any more. I felt like there were a lot of plays during the season where if I’m not wearing the glasses I make the play or I get the hit. It worked out for the best. It got me through the season and I didn’t have to sit out.”
McCann, who last year called a second laser surgery a “last resort,” says the procedure was routine.
“A lot of people that get the Lasik surgery done go back and get it enhanced,” he said. “It just so happened that I’m a professional athlete and it’s going to get magnified. It’s just an enhancement.”
He says he’s happy with the result.
“From when it first started going blurry it’s like night and day,” he said.
Cox said McCann “is always going to hit,” and he proved the point last season.
Despite spending two weeks on the disabled list for what was called an eye infection, McCann batted .281 and led the Braves with 21 homers and a career-high 94 RBIs.
“I was very happy with the season I had under the circumstances,” he said. “I’m going to hopefully be better and stronger this year.”
McCann hit .333 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs in 2006, his first full season. He hit .301 with 23 homers in 2008.
“He’s a tough out — and he can see the ball,” Cox said.
Even with his vision problems, last year was the first time McCann hit cleanup most of the season. He hit .270 in 437 at-bats hitting fourth and .368 in 38 at-bats hitting fifth.
He said he hopes new first baseman Troy Glaus hits fourth this season.
“We expect him to have a good year hitting behind Chipper (Jones) and in front of me,” McCann said of Glaus. “It makes for a great lineup.”
Cox said he hasn’t decided on a lineup. Glaus, Jones and rookie Jason Heyward, who could win the starting job in right field, are expected to report to camp with other position players on Monday. The first full-squad workout is planned for Tuesday.