Matt Stairs is like the Energizer bunny. He just keeps going.
The Bangor resident, who will turn 43 on Feb. 27, is already looking forward to spring training after signing a one-year minor league contract for undisclosed terms with the Washington Nationals earlier this week.
He already owns the major league record for career pinch-hit homers with 23 and if he makes the Nationals roster and hits a homer for them, he will also own the career records for most teams played for (13) and most teams for which he hit at least one homer (12).
“There were some other teams interested but the Nationals came after me early, right after I filed for free agency. The other teams were waiting until the new year,” explained Stairs. “I wanted to find out before Christmas.”
The lefthanded-hitting Stairs hit .232 with six homers and 16 RBIs for the San Diego Padres last season and tied for the major league lead in pinch-hit homers with four. He played in 78 games and had 99 at-bats.
The outfielder-first baseman finished strong, hitting .333 with three homers and four RBIs in his last 18 at-bats spanning 12 games.
Stairs acknowledged he got off to a slow start but he was pleased with the good finish.
“I was happy with my season,” he said.
The Nationals are a young team and they finished 69-93 a year ago.
“This is a good opportunity for me,” said Stairs. “I’ll give them a veteran presence in the locker room and someone who has had success as a pinch-hitter.”
He said setting the record for pinch-hit homers is “definitely an honor.
“It’s something I take pride in. It’s one of the things I enjoy,” said Stairs, who should benefit from playing in a ballpark that is much more of a hitter’s park compared to San Diego.
“(Nationals Park) is a beautiful ballpark and the ball carries pretty well throughout the year,” he said. “San Diego was tough. It was definitely a pitcher’s ballpark.”
He also knows the National League’s East Division well since he played for the 2009 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies and he likes the fact he is much closer to his family.
“Instead of them having to make a cross country trip, now it’s a quick flight for them, about an hour and a half,” said Stairs.
Stairs, who was already friends with former Phillie Jayson Werth, who signed with Washington as a free agent, was a teammate of Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego this past season and said he should flourish for the Red Sox in Fenway Park.
“He’ll have a field day at Fenway Park. It’s a perfect fit for him,” said Stairs, noting the lefthanded-hitting Gonzalez has good opposite-field power. ”He will definitely help them.”
Stairs, a New Brunswick native who is in his second season as an assistant coach for the Bangor High School hockey team, pointed out he still has to make the Nationals.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Stairs, who is a career .264 hitter with 265 homers and 897 runs batted in in 1,839 career games.