Matt Stairs: “I Know I’m Going to Hit”

This content was originally found in Issue No. 5 of this year’s Senators Program

(Samuel Getty / Harrisburg Senators)

When Matt Stairs arrived on City Island in the spring of 1991, he came to Harrisburg with the goal of focusing on his defense. The previous season Stairs had committed 39 errors at West Palm Beach and Jacksonville while playing third base and shortstop.

“I just had a bad year defensively,” Stairs told Nick Horvath of The Patriot-News. “Looking back, I believe it was lack of concentration. Improving myself defensively is my top goal this season.”

Stairs could afford to focus on his defense. Hitting had never been an issue for the Fredericton, New Brunswick native. Just that off-season Stairs had won the batting title in the Mexican Pacific winter league with a .330 average.

“I don’t mean to sound boastful, but I know I’m going to hit,” Stairs said.

The versatile infielder was right. From the outset, Stairs was a .300 hitter who sustained that average throughout the season while carrying the Senators to an 87-53 record and the regular season championship in the Eastern League. But Stairs wrote his name in the record books and in Harrisburg lore thanks to the last 22 games of the season.

On August 11, manager Mike Quade held the then 23-year- old out of the starting lineup after Stairs was mired in an 0-for- 14 slump. The day off re-energized Stairs and according to him it gave an opportunity to regroup. The next night he had four hits and didn’t stop his hot streak for the rest of the season.

Stairs hit .467 (43 for 92) in the remaining games with six home runs and 31 runs driven in. “I had a lot of  extra-base hits and RBI in August. I didn’t want anybody to wake me up,” Stairs told The Patriot-News Skip Hutter.

For his efforts, Stairs was voted the league’s most valuable player. “This year in pro ball is like a dream come true. Being an all-star, the MVP and the league’s leading hitter this year has been the highlight of my career,” Stairs said.

Not bad for a guy who didn’t take up baseball until high school and learned the game while watching it on television.

Accolades and Achievements

  • Named the MVP of the Eastern League in 1991 as he slashed .333/.411/.509 with 30 doubles, 10 triples, 13 homers, and 23 stolen bases
  • Broke a 98-year-old record for a position player by appearing with 12 different franchises
  • Tied for the record with Todd Zeile for homering as a member of 11 different teams in his Major League career
  • Selected as the Topps Minor League Player of the Month for August 1991 where he batted .467 (43 for 92) the last three weeks of the season with six home runs and 31 RBI
  • Member of the Canadian team at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea
  • One of 56 players to suit up for both the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays and one of four Canadians to do so
  • Broke Cliff Johnson’s record for slugging the most pinch-hit home runs in MLB history with 23
  • During a 7-4 loss to New Britain on City Island, he became the first Senator in the modern era to hit for the cycle when he completes the feat with a bunt single
  • As a member of the Oakland A’s on July 5, 1996, Stairs drove in six runs in the first inning with the first of his 12 career grand slams and then a single that drove in an additional pair of runs before the frame ended
  • He is second behind former Expos teammate Larry Walker in both games played and home runs hit by a Canadian major leaguer
  • One of only two players from the Canadian Province of New Brunswick (and first since 1906) to win a World Series
  • Enshrined in the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in 2012
  • After three seasons working as an analyst on the Phillies’ television broadcasts, Stairs was hired as the team’s hitting coach for the 2017 season
  • Stairs shared a line with future NHLers, Everett Sanipass and Tyler Larter, on an under-17 all-star hockey team against a touring Soviet squad
  • .262 batting average, 265 career home runs, and 899 RBI in 19-year career

The Wit and Wisdom of Matt Stairs

“I’m not going to lie, it’s fun. I try to hit home runs and that’s it.”

“Swing like you live — hard.”

“When I signed the professional contract, I figured it would be awesome to get to Double-A.”

“I’ve got a beer gut. I’ve got a goatee and long hair. I’m a rebel. I enjoy life. I don’t think I’m better than anyone. I always treat people with respect, because if I didn’t, my old man would whup my ass.”

“I’ve never turned down a fastball, and I never will. I’ll be swinging at fastballs till I’m 50. They might be slow-pitch fastballs, but I’ll be swinging at them.”

“Being a hitting coach is like being a bartender. You need to have a good ear. You need to listen to everybody. You need to take every piece of information you’re getting from players and try to give them something they can use.”

“I was a better hockey player than a baseball player. Hockey had always been my No. 1 sport. I’ve had people tell me they wished I had stayed in hockey…There were a few chances to go with Junior A teams in Ontario, but that was at the same time I got the chance to sign a pro baseball contract. The decision was easy. Baseball is more money, and it’s warmer.”

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