Reinvigorated, rejuvenated and record breaking
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
OTTAWA – When Matt Stairs stepped up to the plate as a pinch hitter on April 5th for the San Diego Padres in Arizona against the Diamondbacks, it was milestone moment. Even though he flew out to center field in that at-bat, Stairs cemented his name in the record books.
With that one at-bat Stairs tied a major league record for most teams played for in a career. The Padres are his 12th major league team, tying him with Deacon McGuire, Ron Villone and Mike Morgan.
Where the Fredericton, New Brunswick native’s career has taken him can resemble the Johnny Cash classic “I’ve Been Everywhere.” He’s been to Montreal, Boston, Oakland, Chicago (Cubs), Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Texas, Detroit, Toronto, Philadelphia and now San Diego.
His road map speaks to the longevity of his major league career which began back in 1992 with the Montreal Expos.
“It’s a different record to have, but it’s quite an honour,” says the always humble and affable Stairs. “But whatever record you have, it’s good to know that you’ve had a good career playing baseball, a game I love.”
But that is not the only place the 42-year-old slugger can add his name in the long storied history of Major League Baseball this season.
With one home run, Stairs will tie Todd Zeile for hitting at least one home run for 11 different teams. And with one pinch hit home run he will tie Cliff Johnson for the most pinch hit homers in a career with 20. Given his role with the Padres, it is conceivable that Stairs can get both records with one swing of the bat.
Although he would take great pride in hitting home runs for 11 different teams, Stairs considers the pinch hit record very special as it suggests success in his role with the team.
“That record would be more of an honour simply because it means you come through in the clutch with a pinch hit home run and put your name in the record books that way,” says Stairs.
Those opportunities almost did not happen. When no offers were coming, Stairs seriously considered retirement. He spends his offseason at his home in Bangor, Maine with his family and coaching the John Baptist High School hockey team and was very happy with his situation.
He was also commemorated in his hometown of Fredericton during the offseason in a weekend of celebration when the city named a street after him. Matt Stairs Way will be proudly displayed for years to come near the ballpark where he spent a good portion of his youth, Royals Field.
“That was an unbelievable weekend,” remembers Stairs. “Going home and getting the chance to see all my friends and family and all the fans that came out. Then the icing on the cake of getting a street named after you is a wonderful honour.”
“Whenever anyone goes down to the ballpark they see my name on the street,” he adds. “I guess for an individual award, that’s probably one of the highest you can get.”
But despite the slow going in the offseason in terms of offers combined with the contemplation of retirement and the humbling ceremonies, Stairs entered the offseason with the mindset of getting into the best shape of his life in preparation of next season, “should there be one,” he says.
He lost 37 pounds thanks to a diet of hockey and Nutrisystem, the dietary program that has been plugged on television by the likes of NFL legend Dan Marino and singer Marie Osmond.
“Nutrisystem is unbelievable,” boasts Stairs. “They supply you with food, you’re never hungry, it’s great food to eat and I look forward to every month when I get my new order of food.”
“I saw a difference in my body right away after the first month,” he adds. “After the first month I had lost 20 pounds.”
But not only had the 17-year-veteran redefined his physique, he has been reinvigorated with a new found energy that he hasn’t felt in a long time.
“I can go out in the outfield and run around the whole game or a whole practice and still feel fine and have a lot of energy left over. I really believe that getting on Nutrisystem and getting in great shape has taken 15 years off my age.”
Stairs has taken kindly to his new role as the unofficial spokesperson for Nutrisystem as he firmly believes that it has improved his life and rejuvenated his career.
“And you don’t have to worry about putting those pants on and saying ‘darn they don’t fit no more,’” he says with a laugh.
He added that he lost five pant sizes due to his new diet and that he had to reinvest in a new wardrobe.
“But it’s definitely worth the good cause of improving yourself and feeling better,” emphasizes Stairs.
So a new and improved Matt Stairs reported to the San Diego Padres spring training camp after signing a minor league deal late in the offseason. He earned a spot on the 25-man roster and on opening day with that pinch hit appearance became the fourth player in MLB history to play for 12 different teams.
And with that type of experience under his belt, including a World Series title among his accolades, Stairs has become a mentor for the younger generation.
“I just try to keep an even keel and be a good example for the younger guys,” says Stairs. “We have a very young team here and just try to show them all the positives in every situation.”
“The biggest thing is just trying to be a role model and be someone they can turn to for anything,” he adds.
Matt Stairs has undoubtedly been a great role model for Canadian baseball over the years and is an all around good guy who has earned everything that has come his way. He earned his first World Series title in 2008 with the Phillies and has been praised by many for being a team player, a clubhouse leader and a clutch performer. Now in his 18th major league season, he can add record holder to his list of accomplishments.
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