Coaching with Cancer

Local Coach Scott Kain is Down in the Count, But Still Swinging

Scott Kain has had two strikes on him for 41 years — but he keeps fouling off life’s nastiest pitches to remain in the at bat he calls life. It’s why his older brother Mark says simply: “I’m related to a true warrior.”

Scott Kain, 54, is a travel baseball coach on Staten Island, but his most serious battles have nothing to do with baseball. Over the last 41 years, he has endured two massive brain tumors, tongue cancer, bladder cancer, countless hours in surgery and hundreds of hours of body-wracking treatment. A recent scan showed more health challenges ahead.

But Scott doesn’t let it deter him from living a full life — and that includes coaching. Though the chemotherapy and radiation might slow him down, he expects to be on the coaching lines Memorial Day weekend when his 16-and-under Line Drive team opens its season.

“I’ve got a good team of boys with beautiful parents,” said Kain, who coached his team to a championship last summer. “It might take me a little longer to get from the dugout to the third-base coaching box, but I least I can get there.”

Scott’s health challenges started when he was 12. He had just finished catching a game at Mid-Island Little League when a coach tapped him on the back of the head and said “nice game.” The pain from that tap was excruciating. Scott told his mom and got checked out. Doctors discovered a brain tumor and he underwent surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

“They couldn’t get it all,” Kain said. “They gave me radiation and chemotherapy. My parents were told I had a 10 percent chance of living another 18 months.”

The good thing, he added, is that his family never treated him like someone facing a death sentence.

“Looking back, it was my mother, father and brother who were the strong ones,” he said. “They never babied me or treated me as a sick kid.”

A year later, Kain recalls, he had a Babe Ruth League playoff game, but had to get a chemo treatment first.

“I got to the game in the third inning,” he said. “My manager put me in to pinch hit.  I got a single. When I reached first base I called timeout, then went behind the dugout and threw up.”

Kain refused to leave the game. “Not after going through all that trouble to get there,” he said.

He was relatively fine until 1985 when, as a 20-year-old, he took a job at Dow Jones. One day, six months into the job, he developed vision problems.

“It looked like there were a million people walking at me, but there were only a few,” he said. It was discovered he had “a tumor the size of an orange on my optic nerve.”

A 10-hour surgery followed but, again, not all of the tumor could be removed. More chemo treatments kept any future problems at bay — until 13 years later when a bump on his tongue turned out to be cancerous.

“Other than losing a piece of my tongue and all of my lymph nodes, and speaking with a little lisp, it’s turned out OK,” he said.

Fast forward to age 50 and newly remarried, when he took a line drive to the ankle at a baseball practice and the swelling refused to go down. Tests revealed he had bladder cancer. Kain’s greatest concern was how to break the news to his new wife Stephanie and daughter Allyson.

“I realized how tough it must have been for my own family when I first got sick and I didn’t want to go through that,” Kain said. “When my daughter was born — Aug. 10. 1993 — I got down on my knee and said, ‘God, I am going to ask you one thing: Please keep my daughter and my other family members healthy. If someone has to get sick, give it to me.’

“So when I got bladder cancer, I couldn’t be upset. I knew that was our deal — mine and God’s. At least I know my daughter, my nephews and my other family members are going to be OK.”

He underwent 11 hours of surgery to remove and build a new bladder. Through it all, he has kept “a smile on his face with most positive attitude,” Mark attested.

“What do I have to sulk about?” Scott said. “I own two businesses and four racehorses. I was told I could never have children because of all the radiation, but I have a wonderful daughter. I have a beautiful wife and a tremendously close family.”

His involvement with the Line Drive organization has also given him more time with his brother Mark and nephews “little” Mark and Thomas, all of whom are involved.

He received nearly a dozen calls from former players, wishing him Happy New Year, as well as get-well wishes from appreciative parents and the children he’s coached.

“The kids know I’m sick,” he said. “They play so hard for me. I love every single one of them like they’re my family.  These kids help give me a purpose.”

“I truly believe that as long as I have faith, friends and family, anything is possible.”

By local sportswriter Joe LoVerde, who coached youth sports on Staten Island for nearly 40 years.