BANGOR — He is back on the ice where he loves to be.
But major leaguer and Bangor High School assistant hockey coach Matt Stairs, who spent the previous four years as an assistant at Bangor’s John Bapst High School, may not be leaving early to report to spring training.
He is a free agent after appearing in the World Series for the Philadelphia Phillies for the second straight year. The Phillies won it two years ago but lost to New York Yankees this past fall.
The outfielder-first baseman-designated hitter had just 103 regular-season at-bats this season and hit .194. He went 1-for-8 in the Series with an RBI. However, he led the major leagues with five pinch-hit homers and he drove in 17 runs with 23 walks.
He hasn’t heard from any teams yet, but said, “Things won’t pick up until next week when they hold the winter meetings [from Dec. 7-10].”
“If I get a job, I’ll be happy. If not, I’ll be as happy as well,” said the 41-year-old Stairs. “I want to keep playing. I still have the desire to play. I still love it. But I have a lot of plans in Bangor if I don’t.”
The lefthanded-hitting Stairs admitted this past season was a difficult one for him.
“It’s the lowest number of at-bats I’ve had in 14 years,” said the Bangor resident. “It was frustrating. I’d go six, seven, eight games without an at-bat. I’d get a start and then wouldn’t get another one for 31-32 days. You want to stay as fresh as possible. I went into a funk. I didn’t get a hit for two months and it’s hard to get out of a slump when you have such great players in front of you who play every day. And they stayed healthy.
“I wanted to play, but I understood the situation. I still kept a positive attitude. I didn’t worry about my average. I was happy with my pinch-hit home runs and that I drew a lot of walks,” said Stairs.
He said it was
“nice to get back to the World Series” against a “great Yankee team.”
He said Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte’s fifth-inning RBI single off Cole Hamels in Game Three that tied the game and helped send the Yankees on their way to an 8-5 win and 2-1 series lead was the defining moment.
“That gave them the boost they needed and they never looked back,” said Stairs, whose 19 career pinch-hit homers leads all active players.
He is a career .264 hitter with 259 homers and 881 RBIs encompassing 1,761 games.
He isn’t thinking about baseball right now. He left John Bapst because his four-year commitment to them was up and when Bangor coach Ted Taylor offered him a job, he accepted.
“I had a great four years at John Bapst. I had a daughter at Bangor High and another is there now. I go to the basketball and football games and cheering competitions, so why not get involved with the hockey program as well. We’ve got a good bunch of kids. It’s fun,” said the New Brunswick native.
He is also playing in several hockey leagues and organizing his own hitting and baseball clinics at the Mahaney Dome in Orono that will begin soon.