Lachemann lives another dream

Longtime pitching coach has built his home in Auburn as he prepares for the Olympics in Beijing
By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
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Marcel Lachemann celebrated many milestones as a major league coach. He was in the dugout for Reggie Jackson’s 500th home run, Rod Carew’s 3000th base hit and Don Sutton’s 300th win. This summer, Lachemann will finally achieve another baseball dream, when he travels to Beijing as the U.S. Olympic Team’s pitching coach. “It’s pretty special to wear the uniform,” said Lachemann, who recently built a home near Auburn Country Club after living in Penryn for 16 years. “It sounds cliché but when you have USA on your chest it’s a little bit different than anything else you wear.” Lachemann, who turned 67 last week, has donned dozens of jerseys over nearly five decades in baseball. The Southern California native began his playing career at USC, where he pitched four years before signing with the former Kansas City Athletics in 1963. The A’s called Lachemann up to the majors in 1969 after the move to Oakland, where he went 7-4 with a 3.44 ERA in 70 relief appearances over three seasons. He coached in the Montreal Expos minor league system from 1973-1975 before moving back to California in 1976 to teach and coach at Walnut High School in the San Gabriel Valley. He also coached under late USC legend Rod Dedeaux through the 1981 season. Lachemann returned to professional baseball in 1984 as a pitching coach in the California Angels organization. When younger brother Rene became the first manager of the expansion Florida Marlins in 1993, he asked Marcel to join him as pitching coach. It was the first time since Triple-A ball in Des Moines, Iowa, nearly three decades earlier, that the brothers wore the same jersey. “That was the first time we got to be together in a long time,” Lachemann said. The Angels called him the following year and asked him to be their manager. “I hadn’t even thought about it,” he said. “I decided it was something I wanted to do.” Lachemann managed the Angels for nearly three seasons. He turned the team around in 1995. The Angels had an 11-game lead over Seattle in the AL West on Aug. 10, but lost nine in a row twice during the final month and fell to Randy Johnson in a one-game playoff on Oct. 2. “Everybody tried to focus on the negative things, like we lost the lead,” Lachemann said. With five games left, the Angels were actually three games behind the Mariners and had to force the playoff. “If those players weren’t as tough as they were, we would have been eight games out,” he said. The Angels finished the year 78-67 and Lachemann resigned in August 1996, returning to the club for another brief stint as pitching coach the following season. He served as pitching coach under Buddy Bell for the USA Baseball professional team at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada in 1999. The team took silver and qualified for the Olympics. Bell was named Colorado Rockies manager in 2000 and Lachemann became his pitching coach. Since Olympic rules barred uniformed MLB personnel from coaching at the games, Bell and Lachemann were unable to travel to Sydney, where the team won gold. “A lot of people questioned my sanity, being a pitching coach in Colorado,” Lachemann said. He was named special assistant to Rockies General Manager Dan O’Dowd in 2002 and had another shot to coach with the Olympic team in 2004, but the team failed to qualify for the Athens games. The third time is indeed the charm for Lachemann. He, his fellow coaches and manager Davey Johnson must submit a 60-man roster by Wednesday. Twenty-four will be selected for the team, which will meet in San Jose July 28 for processing and equipment distribution. They fly to Cary, N.C., for exhibition games before continuing to Beijing on Aug. 5. Games begin Aug. 13. “The Rockies have been great to me,” said Lachemann, who also served as pitching coach for Team USA at the 2006 World Baseball Classic. “They’ve allowed me to do these other international things, plus have a job where I’m home a lot and most of my responsibilities are on the West Coast.” Lachemann attends the big club’s spring training in Tucson. He spends the rest of the season covering the A’s, Giants, Angels, Dodgers and Mariners, as well as Colorado’s minor league clubs. Lachemann and his wife Suzi moved from Southern California to a three-acre lot in Penryn. They lived there through last May and moved to Tahoe after breaking ground on their house in Auburn. Suzi’s brothers, also Southern California natives, had relocated to the Sacramento area. During a visit, the Lachemanns fell in love with the foothills. “We were able to get some land and get away from all the crowds and traffic, which we couldn’t do in Southern California,” Lachemann said. The Lachemanns have two sons, both of whom have coached high school baseball. Brad, the youngest, coached at Arroyo Grande High for 10 years, leading the Eagles to a PAC-5 League championship and a quarterfinal berth in the CIF Southern Section in 2003. Brett led Del Oro High to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game this spring, the Golden Eagles’ first playoff appearance since 1991. “I’ve been very fortunate to be married to the same gal for 42 years,” Lachemann said. “She’s enabled me to do all of this because she was independent and self-sufficient enough to raise two great boys for me while I was away half the year.”