For some, Matt Stairs’ pinch-hit home run in game four of the 2008 National League Championship Series, besides maybe the length of the monstrous blast, wasn’t anything to write home about.
For sports fans in Maine though, it had an underlying meaning.
The Fredericton, New Brunswick native-turned Bangor citizen launched Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Jonathan Broxton’s two-out, 3-1 offering half way up the pavilion in right field at Dodger Stadium, helping lead the Phillies to a 7-5 victory and one win away from going to the World Series (which they eventually won).
It was a moment Mainers were proud of as they got to witness another player with Maine ties make their mark in America’s pastime.
This year, sports fans in the Pine Tree State won’t be able to witness another great blast from the slugger. Stairs, who will be turning 43 in February, has played for 12 teams in 18 seasons in the Major Leagues. He played for the San Diego Padres this season, who were one game back in the National League West standings behind the San Francisco Giants on Oct. 3 and had beaten the Giants in the first two games of the two teams’ season ending three-game series (with Stairs homering in game one). They were not able to get the job done in game three though as Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez pitched five solid innings, giving up only three hits and five walks while striking out five to lead San Francisco to a 3-0 win. Stairs’ won’t see another day this season to make Maine fans proud, but who knows what the future holds.
With career numbers of 265 home runs, 897 RBI, and 1356 hits, Stairs has made a living being several teams’ key role player over the last 18 seasons. But the question is will he come back next year for a chance to improve his record and make Maine proud once again? I think so.
According to a sports blog called Scoop Du Jour, Stairs was said to have told MLB.com that he contemplated retirement after his two recent seasons with the Phillies. But now, after this season he is considering playing a few more years. This is definitely a possibility. ESPN.com reported that he lost 31 pounds last off-season, making him leaner and quicker at the plate. Match that with a guy who has a veteran presence in the clubhouse and tremendous class. Who wouldn’t want a guy like that on your 40-man roster?
Stairs lives in Bangor with his family and in the off-season is an assistant coach on Bangor High School’s hockey team, a sport in which he grew up playing in New Brunswick. He became the all-time Major League leader in pinch-hit home runs on Aug. 21 when he hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning of a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, making it the 21st of his career.
Being a pinch-hitter may seem like an easy task compared to other players’ roles on the field. You get to sit on the bench, watch a Major League game every night, and you get to step up to the plate when you’re called upon, which is once every game at the most. On the contrary, these are the reasons why it is known as one of the toughest jobs in baseball. You aren’t as warmed up as position players and it’s hard to get into a rhythm at the plate. Stairs seems to have taken to his role quite comfortably though.
Stairs’ 2008 NLCS pinch-hit home run was the first postseason home run of his career, and I believe he would’ve improved that statistic if the Padres made the 2010 postseason. I’m sure Manager Bud Black wouldn’t have had any problem putting him in to blast a late inning pinch-hit home run.
But, the Padres are done and we can only hope that the seasoned veteran comes back for another year. Not only to treat his team’s fans, but to also treat Mainers with an exciting clutch performance and the pride in knowing that a player that calls this state his home, is doing such great things in baseball.
Another good article by Neill, ESPN appearance t-minus next 5 years.