Matt LaChappa has not been featured in a single game since suffering heart attacks in 1996, but the San Diego Padres re-signed their second round pick from their 1993 draft so he can keep his health insurance.
The former pitcher’s career was prematurely terminated after suffering cardiac attacks followed by brain damage.
“He had a virus around his heart. He’d just undergone a physical, too, but something like that can only be picked up on an ecocardiogram,” said Priscilla Oppenheimer, who was the director of the Minor League Operations during the time LaChappa suffered the attack.
To assure LaChappa a steady income and enable him to get the benefits of health insurance, the Padres signed him every season to a Minor League contract.
Oppenheimer also said, “It’s our way of saying to Mat, that you’re a Padre of 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.”
In the early 90’s, LaChappa was a promising star, a hard-throwing pitcher, a natural lefty with a knee-buckling curveball and sensational pickoff move. One evening, while he was warming up prior to a match, he suffered the first of two successive heart attacks.
Life still goes on for LaChappa. With the MLB regular season on, the Padres have once again signed the 39-year-old to a minor league contract, a team-spokesperson told BI.
Though not a huge amount, at the range of $ 3,000 to $ 7,500 for a five-month season, Minor League contracts come with benefits, according to Michael Mccann.
Matt’s grateful father, Clifford LaChappa told Corey Brock of MLB.com, “Initially we weren’t sure whether he’s going to live or not! But the Padres made such a commitment to make Matt a Padre of life. They have shown that sports isn’t just about winning, rather caring for lives too.”