In this day and age it is easy to criticize professional sports for the amount of money paid out to athletes. Of the four big professional team sports (football, baseball, basketball, and hockey) Major League Baseball does not have a set salary cap for each team. This makes it possible for teams like the Dodgers and Yankees to spend over $200 million on player’s payroll. The San Diego Padres rank towards the bottom of the league teams (22nd) in terms of the payroll amount with $100,675,896. Still a hefty amount, no? The Padres, however, are somewhat unique. If you look at their payroll you’ll find the name of a player who has never played in a major league game for them.
Matt LaChappa was drafted by the Padres as a pitcher 20 years ago yet he hasn’t played since 1996. If you’re a Padres fan the name is probably very familiar. But not because he hit game winning homeruns, or pitched no-hitters. It’s because he has inspired many, and so has the the Padres organization has shown him. While warming up as a relief pitcher in a minor league game, LaChappa, a bright 20 year old prospect, suffered a massive heart attack. This heart attack left him with debilitating brain damage and confining him to a wheelchair ever since. So why is he still being paid?
The Padres director of minor league operations, Priscilla Oppendheimer was quoted saying, “Matt LaChappa is a Padre for life,” She was the one who proposed that the team could just go on paying LaChappa, renewing his basic minor-league contract.
“It was the right thing to do, the right and proper thing,” Oppenheimer. “He’s such a good kid… and I’m so happy the Padres have kept it up after all these years.”
Matt LaChappa has been covered financially since the day of the unfortunate accident because the San Diego Padres have kept up his contract and covered him with medical benefits.
This story is one of those that causes some serious self-reflection. Deuteronomy 16:17 says, “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.” Out of their abundance, the Padres have been giving generously. It’s not a publicity stunt or promotion to raise fans. It’s genuine. I am definitely not as well off as multi-million dollar baseball organizations, but I have been blessed by the Lord far more than I deserve. We all have in fact. Love and compassion is at the very heart of the Gospel. Stories like this show that we should all give to those who can never repay us because it’s right and it’s good and it’s part of what God has created us to do (Luke 14:13-14). Let’s face it…it’s the least we can do in light of what we have received. Because no one has given more generously than God Himself.
“For God so loved the world (for God so loved you and me) that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him wouldn’t perish, but would have eternal life.” (John 3:16)