Aragon’s Kevin Hahn proved to be one of the best athletes on the Peninsula after playing an integral role in the Dons’ Central Coast Section Division III basketball championship and emerging as one of the best pitchers on the baseball field in the Peninsula Athletic League.
The fact he accomplished what he did while battling ulcerative colitis, which ultimately led to the removal of his large intestine Monday, cinched his selection as the San Mateo Daily Journal’s Boys’ Athlete of the Year.
“He’s amazing. I’ve never met anyone like him. We’ve had some cool, competitive kids, but this kid is amazing. He’s a good kid from a good family. He handled everything with grace,” said Aragon baseball manager Lenny Souza.
It is that kind of competitive spirit that enabled Hahn to excel on the basketball court and baseball field, even as he dealt with excruciating pain and just a general feeling of illness. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, ulcerative colitis is an abnormal response by the body’s immune system in which it mistakes food for a foreign or invading substances and sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines to fight the perceived foreign substance, where they then produce chronic inflammation and ulcers.
But Hahn never let the disease define or limit him.
“My doctors always told me it shouldn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do,” Hahn said. “I’ve always taken to that mentality.”
For the Dons’ basketball team, Hahn played a major role in leading Aragon to its first CCS basketball title since 1994. Hahn, a 6-3 guard/forward combo, was third on the team in scoring at 13.2 points per game, but he led the team in 3-pointers made, draining 58 shots from long distance.
And he saved his best performances for the end of the season. In the first round of CCS against Monterey, Hahn blocked 12 shots. In a 94-93 triple-overtime win over Aptos in the semifinals, Hahn scored 21 points — including what turned out to be the game winner — and pulled down eight rebounds. In the CCS title game against Valley Christian, Hahn scored nine points, pulled down six rebounds and blocked four shots.
In addition to dealing with the pain associated with his condition, Hahn was also dealing with a left shoulder he separated during the preseason in a game against Serra.
“He dislocated his shoulder on a loose ball. As his arm is hanging there, he finished the play on a layup with his other hand. We called timeout and he went to the emergency room,” said Aragon basketball coach Sam Manu. “That was typical of Kevin, just how tough he was. He would give everything for his team.”
After earning second-team All-League South Division honors in basketball, he headed out to the baseball field as his health continued to deteriorate.
He started the season as a two-way player, taking over the shortstop duties when he wasn’t pitching. He batted .310 in 18 games before he just could not field or bat any more because of the colitis.
He never did let it affect his pitching, however. He made eight appearances on the mound, recording a 3-0 record in 40 innings pitched. He posted a 1.75 ERA with two complete games and two shutouts, with a 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
In the PAL playoff opener against Burlingame, Hahn pitched a complete-game shutout.
“He just had command of everything he throws,” Souza said. “Knowing if you put him on the hill, he’ll keep you in the game. He’s a true ace with a 82 mph fastball, deuce (curveball) and changeup. He just knows what he’s doing.”
Again during baseball, Hahn would not let his condition define him as an athlete, as he was named to the first team, All-League Ocean Division team. Twice during the season, he went straight from the hospital to the field to make a start — once against El Camino and again against Hillsdale in the final weeks of the season as the Dons were battling for a CCS berth.
“I was in the hospital the week leading up to [the second Hillsdale game],” Hahn said. “I got out about two or three hours before the game. I was making sure I was getting the ball. There was no way I was going to miss my final start against Hillsdale, our rival.”
While in the hospital, Hahn had a needle in his arm to give him fluids, medicine and nutrients. He made sure the hospital staff put the needle in his left — non-pitching — arm.
“I knew we couldn’t beat them without Kevin on the mound. If Kevin Hahn didn’t show up, we were in trouble,” Souza said. “We were talking at practice the night before the Hillsdale game and talking about what was plan B. Kevin said we’d better not scratch him.
“He got into the locker room about 10 (minutes) after 3 (p.m. for a 4 p.m. start). He would have killed me (if I kept him out). I would have been shunned. It was Don (Hahn, Kevin’s dad and Souza’s assistant coach) who always said we needed to have a plan B. But every time, the kid would come walking through the locker room door. He was always there.”
Hahn went out and threw six innings against the Knights, allowing three runs on five hits with six strikeouts in a 7-3 Aragon victory.
It is Hahn’s competitive drive that has enabled him to overcome his disease, which was first diagnosed when he was 12 years old. But he doesn’t do it to be a badass or to seek attention. In fact, there were only a few close friends who knew what he was going through. His whole intention was to help his team. Toward the end of basketball season and most of the baseball season, Hahn was limited in practice. But come game time, Hahn was there to help his teammates.
“Kevin will never tell you how bad it is. He just keeps it from people. If you ask him, ‘Are you OK?’ The answer always is, ‘I’m OK.’ He would just play,” Manu said. “He knew if he had surgery, he’d be gone and we would miss him. He didn’t want to do that to the team. He’s such an important player and he knows it and he wouldn’t do that for fear of harming the team’s success.”
Said Hahn: “I enjoy winning. I’m going to do everything I can to win.”
After the baseball season, Hahn was back in the hospital and got out so he could walk in his graduation ceremony. Last Saturday, he pitched for Souza’s San Mateo Palomino White Sox summer team before going under the knife this past Monday.
“He was like, ‘I think I can throw,’” Souza recounted. “I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ He was like, ‘Look man, I don’t know if [the doctors are] going to give me a release (to pitch for the rest of the summer).”
Hahn went out and threw yet another complete-game shutout.
For Hahn, it was just another opportunity to compete, knowing he’s probably going have to shut it down for the rest of the year.
“I’m trying to get back out there as quick as I can,” Hahn said. “With everything that was happening at the end of the year, I might not be able to go. This could be the last chance I have (to pitch this summer). I had to go out and make the most of it. I didn’t want my last memory of baseball be of me sitting on the bench (during the Dons’ 6-5, 10-inning loss to Menlo-Atherton in the PAL playoffs).”
Hahn is facing another surgery at the end of the year which should help him return to living a normal life. But to Hahn, sports is part of his life and that second surgery should enable him to resume playing at some level.
“I’ve been playing sports since I could crawl. I can’t just give up sports,” Hahn said.
Once able to, Hahn said he plans to participate in intramural sports at University of Arizona and he should have one year of eligibility left to play baseball next summer.
Souza wouldn’t be surprised to see Hahn on the mound again this summer.
“I’m calling it 50-50 this kid makes a start with a (colostomy) bag under his jersey,” Souza said. “Kevin’s main concern is getting his doctor’s release. Whatever [Kevin] wants to do, as long as it’s legal, we’ll do it.
“He’s a baller.”