Dr. Brian Mahaffey, a former baseball Bear who became the head team physician for Missouri State intercollegiate athletes, joined the St. Louis Cardinals medical team in 2013.
From 1985 to 1988, Brian Mahaffey carried one of the big bats in the Missouri State Baseball Bears lineup.
Mahaffey set school records for career (42) and single-season (21) home runs.
He earned three all-conference first team selections, and 2005 induction into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame. He was a three-time College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American and the 1988 Mid-Continent Conference Co-Player of the Year.
In 2013, a quarter-century later, Brian Mahaffey finally reached the major leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Although he still has those 42 homers among his career stats, Mahaffey’s “call-up” this year was not as a first baseman-designated hitter — but as one of four Cardinals team physicians. He’s now sports medicine specialist Dr. Brian Mahaffey.
“I was very happy here playing baseball for the Bears,” Mahaffey said, “and when I went to medical school, my dream job was to come back here and be the Missouri State team physician.”
Mahaffey, a native Springfieldian, reached that goal in 1998. He was affiliated with Mercy health-care system, and that year he began working with the Missouri State athletics training staff and Bears student-athletes in all sports. He became MSU head team physician in 2003.
Mahaffey, and the Mercy sports medicine group, extended their service into professional baseball in 2005 as they started working with the St. Louis Cardinals’ Class AA team when the Springfield Cardinals began playing at Hammons Field.
Mercy in St. Louis had an interest in adding a sports medicine component to its service for that area, and, Mahaffey said, “there were 550 physicians but they had no integrated orthopedics or athletics medicine practice and also didn’t have a building, so they were literally starting from scratch.”
Plans are in the works for that program, and a facility in which to house it, becoming a reality in the near future.
Along with talking about the new plans for Mercy in St. Louis, Mahaffey and Springfield orthopedists Dr. Rick Seagrave and Dr. Vic Wilson went to St. Louis in December and met with Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak and other ballclub officials.
“We talked about how we do things in Springfield and our vision of sports medicine, and within three weeks we had a signed contract. Our thoughts and theirs about development of the program and care of the players meshed very well.”
Mahaffey officially joined the Cardinals in January 2013, and was at the club’s spring training base in Jupiter, Fla., in early February, where his duties included giving physical exams to players in the Cardinals organization.
“The Cardinals’ athletics training staff there has just been unbelievable,” Mahaffey said. “The players and coaches have been very welcoming and have shown a strong interest in looking for better ways to do things.”
Mahaffey joins a Cardinals medical team that includes orthopedists Dr. George Paletta and Dr. Lyndon Gross as well as internist Dr. Jason Hand.
Mahaffey’s duties include working as coordinator for health care for the Cardinals’ entire minor league system, which includes eight clubs in five states and the Dominican Republic. Each club has its own athletics trainer, a team physician and a strength-and-conditioning coach.
“Mercy, and myself personally, would not have this opportunity with the St. Louis Cardinals if it was not for our partnership with Missouri State University, our other community partners and great work by our whole staff,” Mahaffey said. “That staff includes many athletic trainers who graduated from the Missouri State University sports medicine and athletic training program.”
Jim Penkalski, MSU director of athletic medical and rehabilitation services and a member of the MSU staff since 1990, adds his perspective: “When Dr. Mahaffey came on the scene as head team physician for Missouri State athletics, his passion for sports medicine and his love for MSU were more than evident. He has been integral in helping propel MSU athlete health care to a level that most universities could only dream of. His efforts have secured a relationship with Mercy-Springfield, giving all MSU athletes quick access to the best health care around.
“He is not only one of the best physicians I have had the pleasure of working with, but he is also a great teacher, and great friend.”
Mahaffey will continue to work with the Missouri State program as a team physician along with Seagrave, Wilson and Dr. Landon Hough.
“As a lifelong Cardinals fan,” he said, “this is more than a dream come true.”