Brian Mahaffey was one of Missouri State’s first baseball bashers. The Kickapoo High School graduate hit a then-record 42 career home runs for the Bears from 1985-88.
Later, Mahaffey returned to Missouri State as a team physician and helped others break his records. These days, as coordinator of medical services for the St. Louis Cardinals, he has a front-row view of one of baseball’s all-time sluggers, Albert Pujols.
What a ride it’s been for Mahaffey, who was among the inductees into the Springfield Area Sports Hall of Fame on Tuesday night. About 600 people attended ceremonies at The Oasis Convention Center.
“This honor means a lot to me,” Mahaffey said. “I had my dream job at Missouri State. I had no intention of ever leaving. I got a second dream job, with the Cardinals. Not many people can say that. I’m blessed.”
‘My parents raised me and Coach Guttin turned me into a man.’
Mahaffey said his time at Missouri State, where he helped the Bears reach their first NCAA Tournament as a Division I program in 1987, helped mold his life, both personally and professionally. He met his wife, Sandy, there.
“Those were probably some of the best years of my life,” Mahaffey said. “To be able to come to Missouri State and play for Keith Guttin and to be part of that tradition, and to be able to live it and to continue it is one of the great pleasures of my life.
“It completely changed my life and set me up for success from there on out. We learned a tremendous amount with baseball, but we learned more about life. I’ve often said my parents raised me and Coach Guttin turned me into a man.”
A slugger before his time
Guttin, who’s preparing for his 41st season as head coach, recalled Mahaffey as being the ultimate student-athlete and a slugger before his time.
Mahaffey hit 21 home runs in 1987 and finished his career with 41. Both were school records at the time in an era when home runs were harder to come by than in recent decades.
“In 2003 when we went to the College World Series, Brian traveled with us and took batting practice at Creighton’s old ballpark the day or two before, when we had our workout off-site,” Guttin recalled. “He and (2003 catcher) Tony Piazza had the most power on the field, and Brian was in street clothes.
“He had power before its time.”
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Brendan Donovan, who played 50 games for the Springfield Cardinals in 2021, was a key contributor to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2022.
From business major to medicine
Mahaffey said he came to Missouri State as a business major, but after one accounting class changed his mind. Though he did wind up marrying an accountant, he said it was apparent that a path in medicine was the direction he needed to go.
“Most of my family is in health care or education,” he said. “It was a natural progression to me. It was a challenge and it was a way to help people and to take advantage of what God had blessed me with, some ability to think on my feet and work hard. That’s how I started into medicine.”
He wound up getting a medical degree from the University of Missouri and, during his first year of residency, met Dr. Jim Kinderknecht who is now team physician for the New York Giants.
“Within five minutes of talking to him I knew exactly what I wanted to do. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to take my family practice, my family medicine education and experience and put it towards sports medicine and I never looked back,” Mahaffey said.
“It’s been an amazing career for me and an amazing life.”
A career launched in Springfield
Mahaffey returned to Springfield with Mercy Sports Medicine and became Missouri State’s lead team physician in 1997. He spent 16 seasons working with Bears’ student-athletes while also working with the Springfield Cardinals.
In 2013, he got an offer to move to St. Louis and work with the major-league Cardinals. His dream of playing in the big leagues as a youngster, despite his college baseball power exploits, didn’t materialize. But he made it to the big show a different way and has relished the ride.
Mahaffey left Missouri State with lots of memories, including the Lady Bears’ magical run of success led by Jackie Stiles from 1997-2001 and the baseball team’s 2003 College World Series appearance.
“It’s also a lot of the little stories that people don’t know about,” he said of memories. “It’s the little stories and successes, getting to know those athletes and to see them now and for some of them to recognize me or to stop me and say hi, it means the world to me.”
Watching history with the Cardinals
Mahaffey said the 2022 season with the Cardinals has been special as he’s watched Pujols and Yadier Molina close out Hall of Fame careers and 41-year-old Adam Wainwright enjoy another great season on the pitcher’s mound.
He was in the dugout on Sunday during pre-game ceremonies honoring the trio in the final regular-season home game at Busch Stadium.
“To be around those three men, it’s remarkable,” Mahaffey said. “I’ve met a lot of great people through the Cardinals organization. I’ve got to sit down and talk baseball with Whitey Herzog and Red Schoendienst, but to watch those three go about their business and the success they have and the longevity they have, is amazing to watch.”
The same can be said for those who have been around Mahaffey.
“The things he’s done since he left Missouri State continue to impress,” Guttin said.
Springfield Area Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2022
A look at the 2022 induction class for the Springfield Area Sports Hall of Fame:
- Dan Cashel: The Springfield native spent 46 years at Drury University with a myriad of assignments, his most prominent as Sports Information Director from 1977-2005. In retirement, Cashel continues to coordinate the Drury Athletics Hall of Fame.
- Courtney Frerichs: The distance runner from Nixa earned a Silver Medal at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in the 3000-meter steeplechase. Shortly after that, she set the American record in the event, becoming the first American woman to break the 9-minute barrier.
- Jack Jewsbury: The Kickapoo High grad is arguably the best male soccer player to come out of Springfield. After playing at Saint Louis University, Jewsbury spent 14 seasons in Major League soccer before retiring in 2016, ranking ninth in MLS history for games played.
- Brian Mahaffey: A baseball star for Kickapoo High and Missouri State, Mahaffey didn’t make it to the big leagues — but did as a doctor. Mahaffey joined the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 2013 as major league medical coordinator. Prior to that, he was a team physician for Missouri State.
- Darrell “Smitty” Smith: Smith opened Smitty’s Mid-West Boxing Gym and Youth Center in 2012 and has coached more than 1,500 kids in boxing. An accomplished boxer in his own right, Smith amassed a 218-14 amateur record during his career.
- Jim Winn: The first-round draft choice (14th overall selection) by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1981 Major League Baseball draft, the right-handed pitcher spent six seasons in the major leagues, the first five with the Pirates. He was a standout at Clever High School and John Brown University.
- Greenwood Football — Paul Mullins era: The 2022 Era of Excellence Award for team success, Greenwood football was led by coach Paul Mullins from 1964-89. He guided the Jays to 10 district championships and took them to the Class 1 Missouri state title in 1981, with a 14-0 victory over Gallatin at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Under Mullins, Greenwood was also state runner-up in 1971, 1980 and 1986.