Wednesday, October 15, 2008
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Stairs shuns limelight after clutch HR

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[October 15, 2008]  LOS ANGELES (AP) -- One day after hitting the most significant home run of his career, Matt Stairs went about his business as though nothing ever happened -- which helps explain why he's still around at age 40 after 12 full seasons in the big leagues.

No huge celebrations for the pinch-hit homer Monday night that broke an eighth-inning tie and sent the Philadelphia Phillies over Los Angeles 7-5 for a 3-1 lead in the NL championship series.

Instead, he stood in the outfield at Dodger Stadium during an off-day workout and shagged fly balls and joked with teammates. He also tried to answer the 40 messages on his cell phone, including a few from guys he coached in hockey back in Maine.

"I enjoyed it last night when I left the ballpark. My wife and two of my daughters are here, so it was fun to talk to them about it. But my point of view, it was over with," Stairs said.

"I mean, we didn't turn on SportsCenter, I didn't read any newspapers -- nothing. It happened yesterday," he said. "That's what I've always learned. You can't live in the past."

A lesson well learned in a career that's taken him to 11 different major league teams, starting with the Montreal Expos in 1992. He got this chance with the Phillies because of a trade Aug. 30 with Toronto for a player to be named.


Some of his former Blue Jays teammates called to congratulate the Canadian-born Stairs. The homer off hard-throwing Jonathan Broxton was Stairs' 15th career pinch-hit homer.

Stairs launched it from the same batter's box where one of the most famous pinch-hit homers ever was hit, Kirk Gibson's shot in the 1988 World Series. Stairs' homer came one day before the 20th anniversary of Gibson's drive.

Yet the compact slugger with the powerful left-handed swing tried to stay humble.

"Even the year I hit 38 homers (with Oakland in 1999), I didn't think about what I did," Stairs said. "This game can bite you in the butt. You can have a great day yesterday and all of a sudden go 0-for-20."

Dodgers manager Joe Torre was well aware that Stairs was a dangerous threat off the bench because of all the years he managed against him in the American League. Stairs twice had more than 100 RBIs in a season and also drew some MVP votes.

"He's one of those guys who has made his presence necessary," Torre said. "He has done a great job accepting whatever role is given to him. He knows he can hit. The biggest thing for me is he has a plan at the plate."

Stairs has a unique hitting approach. He swings for the fences every time up. Most players will tell you that they can't hit a home run if they try for one.

"Certain people for certain swings," Stairs said. "I swing as hard as I can. My goal when I get into the batter's box is to see how far I can hit the ball. I'm not going to lie. I try to hit home runs. It carries over from batting practice I try to hit every ball out of the ballpark."

An outfielder, first baseman and DH most his career, he accepted his role as a bench player for the Phillies.

"I was excited when they told me I was going to Philly," Stairs said. "It was a great team and it was heading in the right direction. I knew I was coming to an organization that needed a pinch-hitter.

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"When you come to a new team, you want to do something big to fit in real nice. You want to contribute as much as possible. And I think last night was a good way to jump into the fire. That home run really helped us, so you feel like part of the team. But by no means did I feel like an outsider here before that."

Asked why he's ended up with so many teams after others cut him loose, he just shrugged and pointed out that the other 10 teams didn't want him anymore.

"I think I bring a positive attitude," he said. "Nothing negative comes out of my mouth. I enjoy the game. I enjoy being here early and talking to guys about hitting and give them my point of view. This is the way I approach the game and play the game -- to always have a smile on my face and not let things bother me."

This is Stairs' third trip to the postseason and his first to the LCS. He was with the Boston Red Sox in 1995 when they lost to Cleveland, and played for Athletics in 2000 when they were eliminated by the Yankees.

Once he's done playing, Stairs wants to stay in the game as a manager or hitting coach. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel thinks it'll be an easy transition.

"I think he's definitely got the qualifications and the resume," Manuel said. "He's been in the game a long time, he's got a lot of experience and he's been a lot of places, so I'm sure he's got a lot of stories to tell."

"He's got a baseball eye, and if you talk to him, you can tell how much he loves the game," he said.

[Associated Press; By JOE RESNICK]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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