Slimmer Matt Stairs Step From Record
Well, he tried to, anyway.
"I put on a pair of size 36 pants and I couldn't button them up,'' Stairs told FanHouse Tuesday. "Later that week I started Nutrisystem.''
Lots of people start. Stairs maintained. Over the course of the winter he dropped 37 pounds and came to spring training at 200 pounds and a willing proselytizer for Nutrisystem.
And he's not slacking off. He reached into his locker Tuesday morning at the Padres' Peoria Sports Complex clubhouse and pulled out his prepackaged meals for the day.
"I never dreamed that I'd be able to get into a size 33 at age 42,'' he said.
He scarcely dreamed that he'd get into another uniform of any size at age 42, but the Padres came calling this winter offering him a job as a left-handed bat off the bench, positive influence in the clubhouse and pinch-hitter deluxe.
Whatever the baseball equivalent of a gym rat is, Stairs is the poster boy for it.
"I was ready to face retirement,'' Stairs said, "but I love the game. I love playing. I think there are a lot of guys who have their ego step in and aren't willing to take the big pay cut.
"But I still wanted to play, even though I was all set for retirement if it happened.''
That would include helping to coach the University of Maine hockey team. A Canadian with a passion for hockey, Stairs spends his winters playing in two different men's recreational hockey leagues -- and coaching his daughters.
Then the Padres came calling. Manager Bud Black has a young team, and GM Jed Hoyer wanted to get Black a solid veteran presence for the clubhouse, if Stairs was willing.
"He's a guy we'd like to see make the roster,'' Black said Tuesday. "He's been in that role off the bench before, a guy you can bring up in a big pinch-hitting situation. A guy like Matt gets into that role mentally, and it's one of the toughest roles in the game.''
Stairs has been doing that for a decade now. It was in that role he made his biggest mark in Game 4 of the 2008 National League Championship Series against the Dodgers. The Phillies were in danger of having the Dodgers tie the series at 2-all, Los Angeles owning a 5-3 lead in the eighth.
Shane Victorino tied the game with a two-run homer. A couple of batters later, Stairs came off the bench as a pinch-hitter after Los Angeles had brought in reliever Jonathan Broxton. Stairs, who has played two decades with his all-or-nothing swing, got the best of a Broxton pitch and planted it deep into the seats for a game-winning homer. Up 3-1 in the series, the Phillies went on to easily put the Dodgers away, then beat Tampa Bay in the World Series.
"That might be my greatest memory in baseball,'' said Stairs, the king of the no-apology for swinging for the fences. "But there have been a lot of memorable homers.''
Enough so that Stairs is on the cusp of writing his name into the record books. If he makes the roster -- and it seems likely he will -- Stairs will become the first position player to have been in the big leagues with 12 different teams. With his first homer, he would be the first man to homer for 12 different teams.
And with another pinch-hit homer he'd tie the big-league record currently held by Cliff Johnson (20). Stairs had five last year alone with the Phillies.
"If it happens, it would be good,'' Stairs said. "But I just want to play and help out. I'm sort of like a player-coach these last few years.''
But what would a record like that mean?
"It'd mean I'm old,'' he said.