Each season the San Diego Padres re-sign their second-round pick from the 1993 draft, even though he hasn’t played in nearly 20 years.
After former pitcher Matt LaChappa had a heart attack in the bullpen in 1996, he sustained brain damage, cutting his career short and confining him to a wheelchair.
Priscilla Oppenheimer, who was the director of Minor League operations when LaChappa had his heart attack, told Steve Bisheff of the Orange County Register in 2013 that LaChappa had a virus around his heart that went undetected during a physical.
To help LaChappa keep his health insurance and a steady income, the Padres re-sign him to a minor league contract each season.
“It’s our way of saying to Matt that you’re a Padre for life. When Larry Lucchino (the team’s former president who now holds the same position with the Red Sox) was here, he said that’s the way it should be. And as long as I’m here, that’s the way it’s going to stay.”
Nothing has changed for the Padres or LaChappa. With the MLB regular season underway, the Padres have once again re-signed LaChappa to a minor league contract, a team spokesperson told BI.
Minor league contracts are not lucrative — about $3,000 to $7,500 for a five-month season, according to Michael McCann — but they come with benefits.
Matt’s father, Clifford LaChappa, told Corey Bocker of MLB.com, “When this first happened, we weren’t sure if he was going to live or die. But the Padres made such a commitment to making Matt a Padre for life. For them to do that, it shows you that sports aren’t just about winning, it’s also about caring for the players.”