The San Diego Padres are a classy organization. Every season for the past 20 years, the Padres have signed former pitcher Matt LaChappa to a minor league deal, despite the fact that he hasn’t thrown a pitch since 1996.
According to NBC News, LaChappa was a phenom prospect in high school and was drafted by San Diego in the second round of the 1993 MLB draft. He was quickly becoming a star in the minor leagues until one tragic night in 1996.
LaChappa was warming up in the bullpen getting ready to come into the game and pitch in relief when he had a massive heart attack. Later that night, he suffered a second heart attack.
Medical teams determined that LaChappa’s heart attacks were caused by a rare virus which had formed around his heart. Despite undergoing physicals routinely, doctors missed LaChappa’s condition because the virus was only detectable with highly advanced medical equipment.
LaChappa’s medical issues forced him to retire from baseball. Now he is mostly confined to a wheel chair and has a difficult time speaking and moving.
However, nearly 20 years after that tragic night, LaChappa is still a Padre. That is all thanks to Priscilla Oppenheimer, the Padre’s former director of Minor League operations who just wanted to “do the right thing.”
The season after LaChappa suffered his career ending heart attacks, Oppenheimer offered him another season-long contract. The next season, another contract. The following season, another.
Oppenheimer explained to NBC News, “Every year I would just give him a new contract, it was for minimum amount of salary, but it was the insurance that really helped, especially since he needed 24-hour care.”
Oppenheimer is no longer the Padre’s director of Minor League operations, but the Padre’s organization still continues to honor LaChappa’s contract. LaChappa will be a Padre for life.
Oppenheimer added, “I’m so very happy the Padres have continued to honor his contract this many years later. It just shows what a classy organization the Padres are.”
You stay classy, San Diego.