After two decades, Matt LaChappa is a Padre for life

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Matt LaChappa in 1995.jpg

In the history of San Diego Padres baseball since the club joined the National League in 1969, the late Tony Gwynn was signed to a playing contract for 21 seasons—all but one with the major league ballclub following a season in the minors.

However, Gwynn, enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of the sport’s greatest hitters, does not hold the franchise record for longevity.

In the history of San Diego Padres baseball since the club joined the National League in 1969, the late Tony Gwynn was signed to a playing contract for 21 seasons—all but one with the major league ballclub following a season in the minors.

However, Gwynn, enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of the sport’s greatest hitters, does not hold the franchise record for longevity.

Listed far from Gwynn’s career total of 3,141 regular-season hits is an East County product who recently signed his 23rd contract with the Padres. The 20th since his on-the-field career tragically ended.

Left-handed pitcher Matt LaChappa, put his signature on a professional players contract, despite his life within a wheelchair for the majority of the past two decades.

LaChappa, the East County and CIF San Diego Section player of the year in 1993, was signed in the second round of the June Amateur Draft out of El Capitan High School. Two years later, climbing the ladder through the Padres organization with a fastball graded to reach the mid-90s. LaChappa was pitching for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the California League when the prospect’s career ended in an instant. Warming up in the bullpen, the 20-year-old southpaw suffered a stroke (some reports indicate it was actually a heart attack) and nearly died.

Twenty years later, LaChappa continues to live with relatives on tribal land north of Lakeside, where his father is the popular and widely respected chairman of the tribal council.

It is more than a gesture of goodwill from the Padres. The act allows LaChappa to receive medical care through the organization.

To this day, LaChappa continues to be a regular attendee of Padres home games at Petco Park and is considered a life-long member of the ballclub.

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