My Buddy Howie

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So my son Taylor and me, after visiting two colleges in two days (Illinois and Georgia Tech) had a couple of hours before our flight home from Atlanta Tuesday afternoon. We decide to surprise our buddy Howie McCann, who runs a baseball training facility north of Atlanta, and visit him unannounced

We met Howie more than 10 years ago when I started playing
"old-man's" baseball while we were Atlanta. I told him I wanted to
learn how to hit. I didn't want to be known as the weatherman who
played baseball....but rather just a baseball player. He taught me
how to hit. Hit it hard. I remember the first time I hit a home run
over a fence in my life. It was at a high school field and when I
hit the ball I put my head down and ran hard, figuring it was a
double if I hustled. I looked up just in time to see the ball clear
the fence in left center field by a few feet. I was 40 years old.

Howie still has that baseball.

Howie taught Taylor how to hit and he's taught countless others as
well. He built a name for himself by teaching basics, keeping it
simple, and reminding hitters to "attack." But he's much more than a
hitting instructor.

Howie is the special kind of person who makes you feel that, during
that time you're with him, the world is revolving around you and is
more special because you're in it. He's inspiring. He loves to
laugh. He loves to rib you. He loves to tell stories. Over the years, he became a great friend. Sometimes when I went to practice we would spend more time talking. Yes, he taught me tons about the game I love. But I think I've learned a lot more about life from knowing Howie.

Oh, yes. Did I mention he taught his kids how to hit, too? Brad McCann plays single-A baseball in the Florida Marlins organization and will get a shot at the big leagues one day. And Brian McCann is one of the best, young catchers in major league baseball, playing for the hometown Braves.

Last summer, Brian made the All-Star team and we went to Pittsburgh to watch. Yeah, it was cool to see Brian, who we used to watch practice as a kid, hanging out with the likes of A-Rod, Jeter and Pujouls. But it was more gratifying to see Howie and his wife, Sherry, watching their kid.

I'm hoping Howie and Sherry come to Phoenix in August when the Braves play here. If they do, I'll introduce you all to the McCanns on 3TV.