It was a Monday earlier this winter and former major leaguer and Bangor resident Matt Stairs was in his Fredericton, New Brunswick, home with his wife Lisa, when he got the news.
Lisa Stairs knew the Philadelphia Phillies and Comcast SportsNet were seeking analysts to work with television play-by-play man Tom McCarthy and in-game reporter Gregg Murphy.
“She said she was surprised they hadn’t called me,” said Stairs.
“Two hours later, they called me and asked me to interview [for the job],” he said.
“I was going to Wing Bowl anyway, so it worked out well,” said Stairs referring to an eating contest held annually at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
“They liked what they saw and heard, and the rest is history,” said Stairs.
Stairs has already begun his career as a TV analyst at Phillies’ spring training games in Florida. He will do 108 games, including preseason games.
Former major league pitcher Jamie Moyer was also hired. He will do 109 games.
Stairs and Moyer each signed two-year contracts. They replaced Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews, who were released by Comcast SportsNet.
Stairs and Moyer will work 30 games together in a three-man booth with McCarthy. It will be a two-man booth the majority of the time.
At the time of their hiring, Comcast SportsNet President Brian Monihan said in an MLB.com story that “These two former Phillies will bring a unique perspective to the booth, and their expert analysis will add a new level of energy, insight and enjoyment to our Phillies broadcasts.”
Hall-of-Famer Mike Schmidt will be in the booth for 12 Sunday home games.
“I’m having fun so far. I’m sitting around and talking baseball,” said Stairs. “I’ve done five or six games, and I feel I’ve gotten better each time. It’s getting easier. I’m learning when to talk and when not to talk. It has been a good experience so far.”
Stairs and Moyer have been longtime friends and played together on the Phillies’ 2008 World Series championship team.
Stairs has already established a chemistry with McCarthy as well as Moyer.
“We listen to each other and feed off each other,” said Stairs. “I’m learning from them.”
He is learning some of the intricacies of pitching from Moyer, and Moyer is picking up some hitting techniques from Stairs.
“And Tom is very good. He knows the game. Those guys who do the play-by-play make it very easy for you. They lead you into great conversation. They don’t put you on the spot,” said Stairs.
This isn’t Stairs first exposure to broadcasting.
He was hired as an in-studio analyst for Boston Red Sox games on the New England Sports Network in 2012.
Even though he did it for just one season, it proved to be valuable.
“I became comfortable in front of the camera,” said Stairs.
He said one of the most difficult adjustments for him has been learning about “quiet time.”
“You don’t have to speak all the time. You talk when you have a point to make,” he said. “I’m going to keep it simple. I’m just going to be myself. I’m not going to try to be something I’m not.”
Spring training has also been valuable because he has received the opportunity to know the players as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
Stairs played in 1,895 regular season games for 12 teams spanning a 19-year major league career. He hit .262 with 265 homers and 899 runs batted in. He set the record for pinch-hit homers with 23.
Since much of his later years were spent as a pinch-hitter, he became a student of the game as he was awaiting an opportunity.
“While you’re sitting there, you’re analyzing everything. Watching the game is how you learn,” explained the 46-year-old Stairs.
He said that has enabled him to see things that maybe others may not catch “like an outfielder who misses the cutoff man or one who charges the ball but hesitates before he makes his throw because he was looking at the runner.”
Stairs moved to Bangor in 2000 and stayed until 2012 when he decided to move with Lisa and their three daughters, Nicole, Alicia and Chandler, back to his native Fredericton.
He had been an assistant hockey coach at John Bapst High of Bangor and Bangor High School, and when he returned to Fredericton, he became the boys high school hockey coach.
Stairs used to play in several men’s hockey leagues in the Bangor area and is playing in Fredericton as well.
He also played for the Boston Bruins alumni hockey team with the likes of former NHLers Rick Middleton, Kenny Linesmen and Ray Bourque.
“I enjoyed it. It was fun,” said Stairs, a longtime Montreal Canadiens fan.
Stairs will also be responsible for doing a one-minute pre-game spot that will be a scouting report of the two pitchers and the lineups.
He will live in Philadelphia for the season but will go home to Fredericton when he has several days off.
Stairs will bring a positive outlook to the broadcast booth, but he said he won’t shy away from being critical or pointing out mistakes made by the Phillies players.
“If a pitcher is throwing a lazy curveball, I’ll give the reason behind it,” he said.