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Close friends forced to go separate ways

Close friends forced to go seperate waysClose friends forced to go separate ways

DENVER -- As he packed his bags and prepared to begin the next chapter of his baseball life with the Mets, Jeff Francoeur said, "I never wanted it to happen this way."

When a group of rookies that was referred to as the Baby Braves burst on the scene and helped the Braves win a 14th consecutive division title in 2005, Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann found themselves living a dream that seemed unreasonable, even when they'd started playing youth baseball together.

As they both impressed during the early stages of their careers, it appeared that these two Baby Braves would serve as the cornerstones of the teams the Braves constructed over the course of the decade that would follow.

But as McCann prepares to participate in his fourth consecutive All-Star Game next week, he's doing so with the revelation that he may never again have the opportunity to play with Francoeur, who was traded to the Mets on Friday in exchange for Ryan Church.

"It's weird," McCann said. "I've been playing on the same team with him since I was 12 years old. You don't get a chance to play together in your hometown after growing up together. But our dreams came true together at the same time. He's my best friend and I'm going to miss him."

When the Mets come to Turner Field on Thursday to begin a four-game series against the Braves, it will mark the first time since their high school days that McCann and Francoeur will be competing against each other.

When the academic seasons came to a close, the two teenagers often found themselves playing together on summer teams. Then, when the 2002 First-Year-Player Draft arrived, the Braves took Francoeur with their first selection and nabbed McCann with their second-round pick.

McCann and Francoeur essentially rose through the Minors together and made their respective Major League debuts in Atlanta approximately one month apart.

"We cherished all the years that we did play together," McCann said. "There aren't too many people that get the chance to do what we did."

While McCann didn't necessarily want to say goodbye to a close friend, he understood why the business aspect of the game put the Braves in a position where they felt they needed to take advantage of the opportunity to trade the struggling Francoeur.

"It's baseball," McCann said. "It's a business, and you're not in control of what goes on. You go where they tell you."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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