The Padres Have Signed a Wheelchair-Bound Ex-pitcher to a 20-Year Deal
I just love this time of year. Spring is in the air and it's the start of baseball season.
I'm watching Seattle Mariners games on TV again, and my laptop is streaming the San Diego Padres -- my two favorite teams.
I've met some great people through sports. I had the honor of meeting the late Hall of Famer, Tony Gywnn, when he was just starting out in the Padres organization in Walla Walla.
The old "Field of Dreams" line hit right on the head: "There is something good about this game."
So, I want to share this story with you. The Orange County. Register's Steve Bisheff wrote a moving article the other day about Matt LaChappa, a former Padres prospect from the Barona Indian Reservation, just east of San Diego.
In 1996, LaChappa was in the bullpen for Class A Rancho Cucumonga. While he was warming up, he suffered a heart attack. He suffered several subsequent strokes and is now confined to a wheelchair.
But the relationship between LaChappa and the Padres is a special one -- the Padres have renewed his basic minor league contract every season, in part so he can have access to health insurance.
Bisheff interviewed Priscilla Oppenheimer, former Padres director of minor league operations, who said: “What happened just devastated so many people. Matt was looked up to by everyone in the community. When he signed, about half the tribe came in for the ceremony.
“He’s a great kid," Oppenheimer told Bisheff. "He is confined to a wheelchair, has trouble communicating and is barely able to hold a spoon. But his mind is still as sharp as ever. He has an incredible sense of humor and is just a joy to be around."
The Padres have renamed a Little League Park after LaChappa, and the team honored him this week at their home field, Petco Park, where they wheeled him out to the mound so he could watch his brother throw out the first pitch.
Eagle LaChappa, Matt's brother, said the former pitcher has again signed his annual deal with the Padres for 2015.
“Nowadays, everybody talks about the statistics in baseball, and how it has all become a numbers game,” Eagle LaChappa told the Orange County Register. “But the Padres have been pretty special to him. They’ve said he’ll be a Padre for the rest of his life, and they’ve allowed him to keep a certain level of care.”
Very classy, Padres. There is something good about baseball.