Who says a “guy” has to be a player?
Rene Lachemann is the definition of a baseball lifer. Holding a position in the game for over 50 years as a player, coach or manager, Lachemann represented a style of baseball that may not be seen again, and his mannerisms and sense of humor left a lasting impact on many a fan of the sport.
It seems predestined that Rene would be a seamhead, as his brothers Bill and Marcel also enjoyed long careers in and around MLB. A lineage like that included “Lach,” who himself carried a bevy of different titles. Starting off as a 19-year-old catching prospect for the A’s (want his baseball card? Bid on it!), Lachemann would only play one full season in MLB. It wasn’t great (-1.2 WAR in that 1965 season, though his first MLB hit was a home run!), but Lachemann’s career would not be defined but his performance on the field. It was in the dugout and down the foul line that he’d truly make his mark.
After spending some time in the minor leagues, his first major opportunity at a leadership role came when he was named the manager of the 1981 Seattle Mariners. Under his watch, the M’s went 38-47 and finished 6th place in the AL West standings. Seattle’s higher-ups liked what they saw, though, and he’d hold the position through the 1983 season. The tenacity that Rockies fans would know him for was on display in these years (check out this article listing just a few of these wild incidents).
After growing tired of Seattle’s ownership, he then headed to Milwaukee in ‘84 to take their manager role. It was Lach’s job to lose - shoot, the ownership confirmed it, saying they hadn’t even considered anyone else. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite what he was hoping for, as the Brewers struggled with injuries and an ineffective offense (why does that sound familiar?) to finish the season 67-94. Lachemann wouldn’t be a full-time manager again until 1993, when he took the helm of the Florida Marlins for four seasons. He’d collect a record of 221 - 285 during those years, and aside from a one-game stint as interim manager of the Cubs in 2002, his days of leading MLB clubs were behind him.
So what does that have to do with the Rockies?
Well from 2008-2012, Lach was the hitting coach of the Albuquerque Isotopes, which garnered him a good enough reputation within Colorado’s organization to be brought up to the MLB team as their first base coach. It’s in that role that Lachemann truly became a “guy.”
See, Lach had a panchant for finding young fans down the sideline seats and giving them unwarranted, practical, and often hilarious life advice. In just about every game that season, one could look out for Lachemann serenading some youngster with his special brand of guidance counseling. The 2013 Rockies weren’t one of the better Colorado teams in recent memory, and fans could use some lighthearted laughs more often than not, so in that way Lachemann’s influence was truly appreciated. His teammates loved him too, as Walt Weiss recants in this 2015 interview:
“He’s probably the most unique guy I have ever been around in this game,” Weiss said. “He’s certainly a character, with his funny delivery and one-liners, but there is a lot of wisdom in there too. This guy has seen it all and done it all in this game. He’s very valuable to his staff and to his teams. “He has a very unique way of getting things across. Sometimes with humor, but it’s always laced with truth and he pulls it off better than anybody I’ve seen. He’s certainly brutally honest, but he comes across in a very unique way.”
The players felt the same, whether that was “Frenchie” (D.J. LeMahieu) or “Sawchuk” (Justin Morneau) or Nick Hundley, whose first impression of Lachemann was, in his own words, “who the (heck) is this guy?” His wild personality immediately enamored him to everyone in the Rockies clubhouse, whether it was as a first-base coach or in his following role as a catching coach/defensive coordinator. Just ask Wilin Rosario, who said, “He’s a funny guy and he says a lot of (stuff), but he’s very understanding. I know that I can go to him and share anything. I can share with him like he’s my father. He’s one of the best people I have met in this game.”
Rene Lachemann doesn’t have an iconic walk-off home run or crazy defensive play that makes him a Rockies icon, and he may seem like an odd choice for a “guy.” To me, though, baseball is at its most fun when you can tell the men on the field are having as much fun as we are. It’s a game, after all, and sometimes we need a reminder to take a step back and really appreciate how awesome baseball is. Lachemann knew that, and he went out of his way to make sure everyone had as good a time as he did. Before his retirement, he held just about every conceivable role on a baseball team at what point or another, and never once lost his love for baseball and the people that played it, coached it, and especially watched it.
“Job? This isn’t a job,” Lachemann said. “I’ve never gotten up and gone to the ballpark thinking I had to go to work. I come out to the ballpark to be part of a game — and I get paid for it. That’s pretty great.”
I dunno, something about that is just really cool to me.