By Miriam Raftery
May 10, 2018 (Lakeside) – A quarter of a century ago, Matt LaChappa was drafted by the San Diego Padres out of El Capitan High School in Lakeside, the pride of the Barona tribe on the Native American reservation where he grew up. But three years later, tragedy struck on April 6, 1996 while the talented left-hander was warming up in the bullpen on opening day of the season with the Padres’ minor league team, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.
He collapsed after suffering a heart attack, then had a second heart attack during an ambulance ride to the hospital. In a coma for months, he suffered irreversible brain damage. Yet to this day, he remains on contract with the Padres, who promised to take care of their injured player for life.
LaChappa’s inspiring story was highlighted last Sunday on ESPN’s E:60 program in an episode titled “The Contract.” (View trailer.) The show will be replayed throughout the month.