CHICAGO -- The goal for Matt Stairs, since the day he signed his first professional contract, has always been to win World Series. "Or a Stanley Cup," the Canadian-born hockey fan said Saturday from Wrigley Field, where he joined his new Phillies teammates. "It depends on what uniform is on. When you get near the end of your [baseball] playing career, the sacrifices you make, you just want to get a ring and go from there." With his hockey career having ended in high school, Stairs embarked on a professional baseball vocation when he signed with the Expos on Jan. 17, 1989. Still playing at age 40, now for his 11th team, the Phillies give him a much better chance of reaching that goal than his former team, the Blue Jays.
"It's tough leaving Toronto, being Canadian, but when they told me I was going to Philly, I was like, 'Nice,'" said Stairs, who served as an assistant hockey coach for John Bapst High School in Bangor, Maine, during the offseason. "[The Phillies] are a team in the hunt, in a park I enjoy playing in. There's an opportunity to win, and whatever my role is, is fine." That role will mostly be pinch-hitting, though manager Charlie Manuel said he'll work Stairs in at the corner outfield spots, especially against tough righties. The Phillies will assume the balance of Stairs' $2.25 million salary for this season and $1 million for 2009. The Jays will receive a player to be named after the conclusion of the World Series, according to Phillies general manager Pat Gillick. The Phillies had been looking for a left-handed bat since losing Geoff Jenkins on Aug. 23 to a strained right hip flexor, and there's little chance he'll return when eligible on Sept. 7. Philadelphia claimed Stairs off waivers, limiting the Blue Jays to one trading partner. "We lost Jenkins and were short left-handed," Gillick said. "Consequently, to get an experienced guy who can play some and hit off the bench can't hurt. We had claimed him, so they either had to make a deal with us or keep him on the roster." Motivated by wanting to find a spot for top hitting prospect Travis Snider, Toronto quickly agreed with Philadelphia, but haggled over money and the quality of the player to be named. None of this matters to Stairs, who has been part of two playoff teams, with Boston in 1995 and Oakland in 2000. He understands that staying loose is important during the final weeks. "My approach is it doesn't matter if you're 100 games out or 100 games up," Stairs said. "Every day and every at-bat, you have the same approach. At this point, you have to stay loose and have fun. I've been on teams before where you get in a race and everyone gets tight." Stairs said Thursday that he would've liked to finish his career with the Jays and "party down Yonge Street" if they won a World Series. He'll just have to adjust. "When you get to be my age, you don't want to move around as much as I have," said Stairs, who learned about Philadelphia from former Flyer Mark Recchi. "I'll have to find a new street in Philadelphia and party down there, maybe look for Rocky Balboa and hang out there." Perhaps on Broad Street.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.