Monotony has no chance against Lachemann

Baseball lifer uses wit, experience to cut through repetitiveness of camp

March 12th, 2016

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Not even the sun has the energy to compete with 70-year-old Rene Lachemann.
Every day this Spring Training -- his 53rd straight as a player, manager or coach in camp -- Lachemann, serving as the Rockies' catching and defensive positioning coach, rolls out of bed before the morning is ready to show its face.
"I get up at 4:45 and work out," said Lachemann, who works under manager Walt Weiss, a guy he coached and managed during their time with the A's and Marlins, respectively. "I'm addicted to working out. I ride a stationary bike for about an hour and a half and lift weights every day. I can't lift like I used to at all, because I don't have any strength. But I stay in shape."
It's possible, maybe even easy, to yawn through Spring Training's nearly two weeks of practice, followed by a month of games that will be wiped from the slate once regular-season baseball arrives. But Lachemann has not had a day of monotony, even though he's had plenty of chances.
Say a team spends 50 days in Spring Training -- a little more than 30 days of games, and around 20 of early and official workouts. Lachemann has spent a little more than seven years going through -- or putting others through -- fundamental drills and physical work.
Rockies Spring Training information
It's most likely a little more than that. Lachemann, who went to his first camp in 1964 when the Athletics and Pirates shared an Army barracks in Daytona Beach, Fla., is from the era when Spring Training began around Feb. 1.
"At that time, you would come to Spring Training to get in shape," Lachemann said. "The young guys would come in shape, but the older players [many of whom worked other jobs, because playing wasn't so lucrative] would come in 10-15 pounds overweight, and by the time two months were over with, you'd be ready to play. You had rubber jackets that would make you sweat like crazy."
Maybe it's the workouts. Or maybe it's a lifetime of love of baseball. Lachemann makes sure no day is boring. He coaches in a gravely baritone that can pierce the murmur of a full stadium and a wit that can be hilarious -- even if his words sometimes are quite uncensored. Guys know they can't keep up with his wisecracks, so they take them. Somehow, he delivers them without leaving the subject feeling insulted.
And don't give Lachemann an opening.
"When he first texted me, I had no clue who Rene Lachemann was," said rookie catcher Tom Murphy, who made his Major League debut last season. "I later admitted to him I thought that he was a female trainer. So he's been on my case for the past three years because of that."

Lachemann also has a priceless frame of reference.
The guy who coached and mentored Lachemann was Hall of Fame catcher Gabby Hartnett, whose career ran from 1924-41. As the Cubs' catcher in the 1932 World Series, Hartnett was a close witness to Babe Ruth's allegedly called home run shot.
When Lachemann was a rookie in 1965, he squatted in the A's bullpen and caught warmup pitches from Hall of Famer Satchel Paige, who was 58 years old at the time.
So during Rockies workouts, Lachemann makes references that, if players are so inclined, would have them hitting Google or YouTube just to figure out who or what the heck he's talking about.
A throwing error in an intrasquad game by third baseman Ryan McMahon, who turned 21 in December, drew the following admonishment: "Quit trying to be Clete Boyer."
Boyer last played in 1971.
"He throws out ridiculous nicknames of old-timers that I've never heard of," Murphy said, laughing. "He loves Johnny Bench, talks about him all the time. I don't even know if there is film of him."
Despite the historical blind spots of some players, the timelessness of the game has kept every day of Spring Training lively for Lachemann.
"I enjoy the whole thing," Lachemann said.