Even though Matt Stairs has retired from major league baseball, his career achievements stand as a legacy in his hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick.
“He’s somebody the community can identify with as being a local, homegrown product,” said Jody Peterson, a player and general manager with the Fredericton Royals of the New Brunswick Senior Baseball League. “He’s accomplished a childhood dream.’’
And because Stairs reached such lofty heights, Peterson feels other kids will be bold enough to dream big about baseball. Young players from New Brunswick don’t have to turn on the television to see a real major leaguer. They can meet Stairs, whose time in the majors spanned 19 seasons. His professional career in the Montreal Expos’ minor league chain actually began in 1989.
“For lack of a better term, kids here can reach out and touch him,” said Peterson, who hopes Stairs joins the Royals in the future. “We would welcome him with open arms. It would be a special thing.
“It would be similar to the impact we felt when (former major leaguer) Jason Dickson retired and came back. You can’t take away that they were major league baseball players. Everybody wants to see guys like that perform.’’
While Dickson joined the Chatham Ironmen after his pro career, Stairs isn’t sure if he’ll return to the senior circuit in the immediate future. He’s interested in coaching in the pro ranks and already has offers.
Regardless, the 43-year-old slugger has left a permanent imprint on the provincial baseball scene.
“He was part of the conversation at the ballpark all the time,” Peterson said. “You were always talking about him and following him. You always felt connected to him at some level. If you talk to the people who grew up with him, he’s the same guy now as he was when he left.’’
Stairs could make a cameo appearance later this month. He’s been asked to participate in the home run contest at this year’s senior nationals in Miramichi. He hasn’t decided if he’ll take some swings, but he’s interested in helping Fredericton’s cause.
“I want to stay in baseball as long as I can,” said Stairs, who’s ineligible to play in this year’s senior tournament under Baseball Canada rules. “I’d love to be like a Don Zimmer. I don’t know if I’d stay (in the game) that long, and I wouldn’t charge Pedro Martinez.”