That's when his arm, worn out from the busiest nine-month period of its life, began to get sore. Caffrey caught through the pain at West Palm Beach in 1985 but was moved to designated hitter three months into the season.
Arthroscopic surgery after the season revealed a tear in the labrum, the ring of cartilage around the shoulder bone, and Caffrey underwent reconstructive surgery in January, 1986.
He played only 13 games at the end of the 1986 season, all at designated hitter, and was moved to first base in 1987. But because the team was grooming a first-base prospect, Caffrey split the season between West Palm Beach and Burlington, Iowa, a lower Class-A team.
Caffrey had a decent year, batting .243 with 20 home runs, and was promoted to double-A Jacksonville, Fla., as the backup catcher in 1988. When the starter got hurt, Caffrey stepped in and hit .263 with four homers and 22 RBIs in 51 games through early July.
More encouraging was that Caffrey was throwing with little or no pain--an apparent breakthrough. Caffrey played in the Southern League All-Star game, but his arm tired, and he slumped at the plate in the second half of the season. He was released in spring training, 1989.
Caffrey returned to Burlington, where he had met his future wife, and worked in a beer distributing warehouse for a year and a half before returning to Southern California last October.
Instead of playing for the big money, he's working the 9-to-5 grind, trying to make ends meet and watching the big-money guys on television. But this former blue-chip prospect doesn't have a chip on his shoulder.
"Sure, I had an opportunity to make millions, but you can't live life thinking about that," Caffrey said. "It does cross my mind, but I don't wake up every day thinking about it.
"I'm happy, I have two lovely kids and a wife. I'm just trying to get my life going in another direction."