Matt Stairs has made a name for himself as one of major league baseball’s best pinch-hitters.
However, he thought retirement was in the offing.
But the outfielder-first baseman-designated hitter and Bangor resident, who has shed 31 pounds thanks to a NutriSystem diet, has signed a one-year minor league contract with the San Diego Padres and will leave for spring training in Peoria, Ariz., late next month.
The contract will pay him $700,000 if he makes the Padres.
The Padres will be his 12th major league team spanning 18 seasons.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be interesting,” said Stairs, who is an assistant coach for the Bangor High School hockey team and is playing in several senior hockey leagues.
“It’s funny. My mindset was on retirement,” said Stairs, who will turn 42 on Feb. 27. “But my agent [Bob Garber] called me and told me I had a job offer. He told me I had a great chance of making the team. They wanted a left-handed hitter coming off the bench who could change the outcome of the game with one swing.
“I’m excited,” added the father of three daughters.
“I know what I’m capable of doing and they do as well. It’s just a matter of going down there, playing well and proving to them that I can still play the game. The advantage I have is you don’t want a young player coming off the bench [and pinch-hitting]. You want an older guy with experience. I’ve got the experience and I’ve had success off the bench as a pinch-hitter as well,” said Stairs.
The Fredericton, New Brunswick, native spent last season with the Philadelphia Phillies after they obtained him during the 2008 season from the Toronto Blue Jays.
A career .264 hitter with 259 homers and 881 runs batted in, he slumped to .194 last season with five homers and 17 RBIs.
The Phillies didn’t offer him a contract for this coming season and that inspired him to lose weight.
“They thought I would be a liability in the outfield. Whatever. I can still catch the ball and throw the ball. And now I’ll be able to run the ball down better,” said Stairs, who noted that he hasn’t been this light (199 pounds) in 15 years.
“I didn’t think I’d lose the weight this quickly. But I did. I never cheated off [the NutriSysem diet] and I continue to do it. It has been unbelievable,” said Stairs, who also dieted for health reasons. “I feel strong and I’ll see if it carries over.”
Stairs has 19 career pinch-hit homers and is two away from breaking the record.
“That’s a personal note. I’m not thinking about it. My job is to make the team in spring training and go from there,” said Stairs.
Even though he will be across the country, he said he has already made plans with his family to have them visit him in San Diego.