Corona del Mar High School baseball coach Kevin McCaffrey. (Courtesy of the McCaffrey family)
Kevin McCaffrey is going back to school.
It isn’t another degree, further training, or professional advancement that the Newport Beach, California, high school baseball coach is seeking, but rather a return to normalcy.
Mr. McCaffrey, a popular member of the Corona del Mar faculty and athletic department, is recovering from Sept. 5 surgery to remove a brain tumor. He plans to return to work just over a month later, on Oct. 9.
“I’m going to go for the whole day and see how it goes,” he told The Epoch Times. “I teach P.E., so I can stay seated and don’t have to do as much. And then the same thing with coaching. I just want to be out there, see the boys, and see how my body is feeling. I think seeing the kids is going to be the best therapy for me.”
And with a bit of age, as well as “a few other surgeries,” comes some wisdom.
“I realize I need to be smart with it,” he said. “I’m not going to push anything. I’m just going to do what my body tells me to do and go from there.”
Corona del Mar High School baseball coach Kevin McCaffrey and his daughter Marlee. (Courtesy of the McCaffrey family)
Mr. McCaffrey, 43, noticed something was amiss perhaps a year and a half or two years ago when he struggled with his hearing.
“I said ‘What?’ way too much,” he said.
A primary-care physician determined the problem likely stemmed from a viral infection and suggested it would clear up in time. When that didn’t happen, Mr. McCaffrey visited an ear, nose, and throat specialist who performed a test that revealed hearing loss. The solution seemed simple enough, until a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed something else.
“I went back thinking I was getting a hearing aid, and the doctor said, ‘I have some bad news. You have a rare form of a brain tumor called acoustic neuroma,’” he said. “Obviously, it hits you in the gut when you hear that.”
Acoustic neuromas affect about one in 100,000 people, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders. The Mayo Clinic’s website describes the condition as a noncancerous tumor on the vestibular nerve, which leads from the inner ear to the brain and directly affects balance and hearing.
Treatment options include radiation, which Mr. McCaffrey didn’t want any part of and likely wouldn’t have eliminated the tumor anyway.
“It’s such a rare type of tumor that there are only a couple of surgical teams that do the operation,” he said. “Luckily, one of the best is in San Diego.”
Dr. Rick Friedman and Dr. Marc Schwartz performed the surgery at UC San Diego Medical Center, where Mr. McCaffrey spent three nights in intensive care. He remained in San Diego, “just in case something went wrong,” for a week.
Corona del Mar High School baseball coach Kevin McCaffrey goes into surgery. (Courtesy of the McCaffrey family)
“The surgical team was happy they got the whole tumor out,” he said. “It’s been a not-so-fun recovery. It’s a weird feeling when you can’t walk straight, but I’m in great spirits. I’m a pretty positive guy, and that’s kind of been my whole outlook on this. It’s just a little obstacle I have to get through. Luckily, here we are at the back end of it.”
Mr. McCaffrey, who previously coached baseball and football at University High in Irvine, took over as Corona del Mar baseball coach in 2019. He has attended a parent meeting and another program function recently, but otherwise has mostly been fighting off boredom at home.
Unfortunately, despite the efforts of doctors to salvage at least some of his hearing, it is all lost in his right ear.
“So, that’s going to be an adjustment for me,” he said. “But other than that, I’m hoping to make a full recovery here in the next couple months. I’m fine one-on-one. I just know that if there’s any group or any background noise, it’s going to be difficult. I just have to learn how to work with it.”
Corona del Mar High School baseball coach Kevin McCaffrey, his wife Brooke, and their 20-month-old daughter Marlee. (Courtesy of the McCaffrey family)
Mr. McCaffrey has received what he called “overwhelming” support not only from his family, including wife Brooke and 20-month-old daughter Marlee, but also Sea Kings players and the “absolutely amazing” Corona del Mar community.
Assistant coaches Nick Barte, Mike Gerakos, Brandon Trinkwon, and Jon Green, and lower-level coaches Brett Vertigan and Tyler Stirewalt stepped in to run the fall baseball program and take care of the field.
The school’s baseball boosters, meanwhile, established a Go Fund Me account that proved very lucrative and has eased what could have been huge financial pressure.
“If you know Kevin, he’s a pretty straightforward guy,” Corona del Mar Athletic Director Brian Walsh told The Epoch Times, recalling the conversation when he learned of Mr. McCaffrey’s diagnosis. “He was like, ‘Hey, this is what’s going on.’ Obviously, he had already kind of emotionally worked through it on his side. The first thing you jump to is his well-being, his family. You go to the human side of things, and you start thinking about job-related stuff after that.”
Within a couple of days after his surgery, Mr. McCaffrey was texting Mr. Walsh regarding details within the baseball program that might have needed attention.
The Sea Kings finished 13-14-1 and tied for third place in the Sunset Surf League last season, after having won league championships each of the previous two years.
“I like our boys,” Mr. McCaffrey said. “We have a lot of returning guys, and some unproven guys that we’re high on. I’m pretty optimistic. When you go through something like this, to me it’s just about getting out there with the boys, but obviously the competitor in me does want to win and get after it. I think we’ll have a chance to compete for a league championship, hopefully. That’s always the goal.”
Corona del Mar High School baseball field. (Courtesy of the McCaffrey family)