Simply Baseball Notebook straight from the source July 2002

 MATT STAIRS keeps on SLUGGIN'

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Matt Stairs may have the most unathletic physique in all of baseball. He generously is listed at 5-9, his arms, while powerful, appear flabby, and the size of his stomach suggests that he favors 'tastes great' over 'less filling.' While it may not be pretty, Stairs' body has carried him into his 10th big league season. His resume includes four straight 20+ home run seasons (1997-2000), including a career high 38 in 1998, and two 100+ RBI seasons (1998 & '99). I caught up with him on June 15th at Miller Park and discussed a variety of topics.

The 2002 season, his first in Milwaukee, hasn't been an easy one for Stairs; he's spent time on the disabled list and been relegated to part time duty, but he's always been a stand-up guy. "You can't make any excuses - I went into spring training and I lost my job," he said candidly. "The biggest thing now is that I've got to swing the bat well and keep a positive attitude when I get a chance to play and when I'm on the bench. I've had the opportunity to pinch hit - I've swung the bat well the last month. It's still a long season and who knows what's going to happen. I wouldn't necessarily say I'm struggling, when you get at bat here and there - it's tough, but you have to stay focused."

It hasn't taken the blue collar Stairs long, however, to adjust to his new surroundings, "Milwaukee is a great city, I've got a lot of friends here," he said. "Just because I'm a blue-collar guy and a guy that enjoys having fun (doesn't mean they'll keep me around), you still have to produce. I'd love to end my career here; we'll see what happens the rest of the season."

Stairs, a native of St. John, New Brunswick, played for Team Canada in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea. "(It was) a dream come true," he said of the experience. "I think growing up you always want to be a major league baseball player and represent your country in the Olympics. I had a great time in Korea, walking in on the Opening Ceremonies - it's something I'll never forget."

Although the Canadians were not in medal contention, Stairs did point out they finished fifth the previous year at the World Championships in Italy.

Stairs says it's difficult to keep in touch with the growing amount of Canadian-born major league players, "The only time you ever knew those guys (other Canadians) was when we played against them," he explained. "I haven't seen Larry (Walker) since last year -it's tough because I live on the east coast they live in the central (part of the US) and the west coast - it's tough to keep in touch."

Stairs began his career in the Montreal organization, and broke into the big leagues with the Expos in 1992, but didn't offer much sympathy when the topic contraction was raised. "I ignore it," he bristled. "It's none of my concern until it happens. It's nothing we have control over. It'd be tough for Montreal to lose their ball team, but it they (the fans) are not going to support their team, then what are you going to do?"

The mood quickly lightened when his old team, the Oakland Athletics, was mentioned. "(We were) the Oakland A's softball team," Stairs said with a smile. "With Jason (Giambi), myself (John) Jaha, and (Ben) Grieve, we had some guys that went up there and swung it and we played hard. We always had smiles on our faces - we all had goatees, long hair - wet in the back and didn't give a shit, (we) went up there, swung hard, (just to) see how far the ball (went)."

At 34, Stairs isn't sure how much longer he'll keep playing, but don't expect to see much of him once he retires. "I got a bunch of land in Canada," he explained. "I'm going back up there and coaching high school hockey."

-David Zingler

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Stairs' page @ Baseball-Almanac.com

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