OMAHA — Junior catcher DJ Petrinsky committed to Texas on June 23rd of last year. The moment he announced his decision, fellow junior catcher Michael McCann was put into a tough spot. Competition was set to join him on campus for his starting catcher role that looked to be his since Michael Cantu made the decision to leave the program. He could either help his new teammate, or choose another path.
For the benefit of the Longhorns, he chose the former.
McCann played in around three quarters of the Longhorns 2018 pre-Big 12 schedule, but never had more than one hit in those games. At the onset of conference play, Petrinsky became the Longhorns’ starting catcher.
“Michael McCann probably caught 45 percent of our games last year, and this year it was devastating for him at first to not be the starter,” Texas head coach David Pierce said May 31st prior to the Austin Regional. “But because of his makeup, character, and ability to make people around him better, he’s become a better player by not even playing because he has that mindset of helping people.”
As Petrinsky received the bulk of the playing time, he needed help adjusting to Division I baseball. The year prior he was playing junior college ball for Hill College. There were still many aspects of the game he needed help with. McCann was there to give him as much help as he needed.
“He’s been a godsend for DJ because DJ has great talent, but he’s never played at this level,” Pierce added. “Michael’s been awesome for him.”
Some of that help was fundamentals related. Other advice had to do with receiving pitches, dealing with pitchers, and other major adjustments from junior college to D1.
Part of why the duo became so successful was because of their demeanors.
“I think we’re both pretty relaxed,” Petrinsky said Friday with McCann at his side. “We’re catchers. We go through a lot of the same stuff. Honestly, I learned more from Michael than I have any catching coach I’ve ever had. It’s been very beneficial.”
Prior to the interview, McCann and Petrinsky stuck together for most of Friday’s practice at TD Ameritrade Field, Omaha. In the open clubhouse, the duo’s lockers were adjacent to each other. Both were talking like regular friends before their dual interview started.
Though they might be relaxed, it still took a commendable amount of humility for McCann to so readily assist the person he fought for playing time with.
Some first meetings are contentious. Some are very amendable. McCann made sure the first meeting with Petrinsky, as well as other catchers, put everyone on the same page.
“I remember when I first saw DJ, I got all the catchers together and was like ‘hey this isn’t about me,’” McCann said. “’This isn’t about any one individual. It’s about us. I’m going to work with y’all, you’re going to work with me, and we’re going to be good teammates to each other.’”
McCann was rewarded for his season of hard work with two at bats in Friday’s College World Series loss to Arkansas. McCann replaced Petrinsky in the later innings and worked two walks in two quality at bats and eventually scored one of Texas’ five runs.