Doors opened by Stairs – Metro US

Doors opened by Stairs

In the visitors’ clubhouse at Rogers Centre this past weekend, Philadelphia outfielder Matt Stairs was proudly sporting a gold chain bearing his country’s name. A St. John, N.B., native, Stairs is as proud a Canadian as you’ll find in baseball.

As well, at 41 years old, and with 17 years of major league experience under his belt, Stairs is considered the current elder statesman of Canadian baseball.

However, Stairs insists Canadians in the big leagues today don’t have to possess such credentials to be treated as equals to their American counterparts.

“They still tease us about the accents,” Stairs said with a smile. “But that’s it.”

The major leagues have changed a great deal from when Stairs first began his career in 1992 with the Montreal Expos. Nowadays, many Canadians, including Minnesota’s Justin Morneau, Boston’s Jason Bay and Cincinnati’s Joey Votto are being heralded as franchise-type players. Such strength in numbers was just not present in the past.

Stairs hopes that as the number of Canadian players reaching the majors continues to grow, so too will interest and the belief that it is indeed a real possibility.

“The biggest thing is the more Canadians that play will open the door for more Canadian players believing in themselves to have a chance to make it to the big leagues,” he said.

And Stairs is a nice example in that sense. At five-foot-nine and 215 pounds, he doesn’t fit the typical build of a baseball player.

“I hope it rubs off on people who want to pursue a major league career — or any kind of career,” said Stairs. “Knowing that you really weren’t expected to be where you’re at and all of a sudden, 17 years later, you’re still doing well. I think it shows that hard work and determination will get you a long way.”

Larry Walker

• Matt Stairs ranks second to former outfielder Larry Walker in games played (1,708) and home runs (257) by a Canadian. Walker, who played for the Expos, Rockies and Cardinals during his 17-year career, is someone Stairs greatly admires. “I think he’ll go down in history as being the best Canadian ballplayer to ever play,” said Stairs.