TEMPE, Ariz. -- Bill Lachemann is proud to report that he'll turn 83 on April 5. Considering that he's diabetic, has had more than one heart attack, a bout with cancer, two knee replacements and more than his share of dings and bruises from a lifetime spent behind the plate,
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Bill Lachemann is proud to report that he'll turn 83 on April 5. Considering that he's diabetic, has had more than one heart attack, a bout with cancer, two knee replacements and more than his share of dings and bruises from a lifetime spent behind the plate, he's looking a lot younger than that.
It must be baseball that's keeping him young.
"I love the game," said Lachemann, whose official title is roving catching instructor. "I love working with young players. I work with young players, and it makes me feel young."
Lachemann, the eldest of three brothers (along with former Major League managers Rene and Marcel) in a famed baseball family, is a staple this time of year at Tempe Diablo Stadium. He estimates this is his 55th Spring Training. On a typical morning you'll see him reading the newspaper in the clubhouse before the real work begins out on the back fields -- in his catching shin guards.
"We have a joke that we'll never see him in the clubhouse or out there in practice without those shin guards on," Angels catcher Tony Sanchez said. "He's on the bike when I come in in the morning. He gets here anywhere from 6 a.m. on. He says he wakes up at 4.
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"If I'm in that kind of shape when I'm 83, I'll be really happy."
The man they call "Lach" has been with the organization for 33 years, he says, and he can't imagine doing anything else. He played nine seasons in the Minor Leagues, then managed at various levels of the Minors for the Angels and Giants. For the last decade and a half, he's been working with Angels catchers, and he's seen a lot of them.
"The one thing you cannot duplicate in this game and manufacture is experience," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a former All-Star Major League catcher. "And I think that guys that have seen catching for a long time look at catchers through a little different lens that is very, very valuable.
"Lach has such an eye for detail. I think the roster of catchers that have come through, and that he's worked with is incredible, as long as he's been doing this, and he has great insight. He's very valuable."
Sanchez says there's nothing quite like getting a compliment from Lachemann, because "you know he means it."
Lachemann says he just enjoys being involved.
"All I ask is for respect," Lachemann said. "I'll get their respect, they'll give me mine, and it's been a pleasure, really.
"Once it becomes work, I quit."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.