Kyle McCann never feared responsibility. He wanted to be around the action as much as possible.
The now tall, stocky senior was once a fleet-footed, energetic third basemen and outfielder for his youth teams. When he was 11 years old his youth team needed a catcher, and without any thought, McCann raised his hand and took on the role.
Shortly after he fell in love with the position.
“Every pitch, every play you're a part of the game. I didn't have to wait for the ball to get hit to me,” McCann said.
McCann's go-getter attitude rings true today. Since arriving at Lambert, he's been through a whirlwind of changes in environment that would seem exhausting to some—as a sophomore, in his first year with the varsity team, McCann was part of the Class AAAAAA state championship Longhorns that eventually went on to be tabbed as the national champions by USA Today.
Then-head coach Jamie Corr moved on, leaving the immense pressure of the junior season on the players and athletic director Drew Ferrer. Despite having tons of talent, including current Clemson outfielder Seth Beer and Auburn outfielder Jeremy Johnson, the Longhorns failed to meet expectations. They were taken out by Milton in the first round of the state playoffs, and coming into this season many wondered if the team could ever replicate the success of the past.
McCann was the lone torch-carrier when the dust settled and the calendar turned toward his senior season. He won a championship with his travel team, the East Cobb Yankees, when the club team won the 2015 Connie Mack World Series in Farmington, N.M., In August.
McCann also locked up his future when he signed to continue his career at Georgia Tech this season, a team with a current national ranking.
Still, nothing felt more fulfilling for McCann than to see his Longhorns bounce back in his final year. He and the other seniors tasked themselves with building a better team culture—new head coach Rick Howard helped jumpstart that goal, considering chemistry was his top priority.
“As soon as coach Howard came in it changed,” McCann said. “We all play for each other now. Last year, I think we played too much as individuals. Coach was preaching the opposite as soon as he came in.”
The Longhorns are 21-5 this season, went 17-1 in Region 6-AAAAAA to win a third straight region title and have their sights set on a state title run again. McCann, who has been behind the dish the entire time, has played his senior season with passionate intention. He doesn't want another first-round exit.
“Last year was rough. We had a lot of talent, and getting knocked out of the first round was tough. We've been working very hard to not let that happen again,” McCann said. “Coach Howard has just been telling us to do our thing, play our game. I think we're really starting to click.”
The pitching has helped: Lambert's starters Turner Scruggs, Zack Graveno and Cole Varner all have ERAs under 2.00, and the Longhorns had a remarkable scoring differential in region play—they allowed just 27 runs in 18 games. The next closest team in region allowed 53.
“They're all phenomenal,” McCann said. “It's easy to catch them.”
As far as the actual catching goes, McCann likes to make it seem as if it's no challenge.
“It's tough on your legs I guess, squatting down the entire game,” McCann said. “It's nothing an ice bath won't fix.”