CRANFORD, NJ – Dennis McCaffery, head baseball coach at Cranford High School, earned his 400th win last weekend when the Cougars won a double header against West New York and Linden.
A baseball coach for 25 years, McCaffery is beloved among athletes, staff and parents. Although he’s seen an estimated 700 games and has a slew of championship titles under his belt, his biggest accomplishment is forming relationships with the students, he said.
“We deal with a lot of great athletes who are even better people,” McCaffery said. “And the community really rallies around sports. It goes beyond baseball.”
McCaffery’s influence spreads beyond baseball. His prior students have come back to watch the current teams play, invited him to their weddings and grew up to work with him as a member of the CHS staff. One of his former students even named his son after McCaffery.
“Obviously, it feels very good,” he said. “It’s so unique in coaching. The wins and losses take care of themselves. It’s neat to have so many kids come back. They’re very loyal to the program and it feels nice.”
He attributes his coaching style to his upbringing in Roselle Park, where he played baseball.
“I was born and raised to work hard and listen to my coaches.” McCaffery said. “The coaches coached, the parents watched and you never questioned a referee. The small community taught me how to represent myself as a student and as an athlete.”
The small-town feel of McCaffery’s upbringing is mirrored in Cranford’s own community, he said.
“I’m very lucky,” he said. “Every year presents a lot of highlights.”
Currently, the varsity baseball team is 4-2 and scheduled to play Elizabeth on Friday.
“It’s very early in the season so far,” McCaffery said. “Are goals are the same for every season – to try to win every possible championship. Any possible championship is in our reach and that’s what we work toward one game at a time.”
When asked how it felt to hit the 400-win mark, McCaffery said he didn’t even realize it happened.
“Quite honestly, I didn’t even know it was coming,” he said. “I don’t keep track of personal stats. When I hit 300, they threw a jug of water on me and I didn’t know why.”
He focuses more on working hard, he said.
“The CHS motto is to play as hard as you can for every pitch of every inning,” McCaffery said. “I tell the students to put in the maximum effort each and every day so they know they’ve given it everything they possibly could and have no regrets.”
McCaffery also thanked the staff and Cranford community for their support.
“The Cranford community is a very caring, supportive community that allows coaches to win just because of the quality of the kids and the support of the town,” he said. “You always have a shot to win in Cranford.”