Despite being retired for over three years, former Major League Baseball player Matt Stairs has never been forgotten in his hometown of Fredericton.
Local author Carlena Munn’s new biography of Stairs, A Boy Named Matt, is an intimate account of the triumphs and trials of his life by someone who knew the famous batter from a young age.
For those not acquainted with his storied career, Stairs is considered to be one of the greatest Canadian power-hitters ever to play MLB. With an amazing list of career milestones — 265 career home runs, including 23 record-breaking pinch-hit home runs, and playing for more major-league teams than any position player in Major League history — his nickname of “Professional Hitter” is well-earned.
This was not the public story that Munn set out to tell, however. Originally meant to be an inspirational children’s book, the project that became A Boy Named Matt has its roots in their shared childhoods in Fredericton.
“I’ve known the family for years — I’m a year older than Matt,” she said. “When I got together with Matt it was simply to get permission to use his name in the book. When we met, he said to me, ‘Why don’t you write my story?’ and I said okay,” she said with a laugh.
Despite never having written a biography, Munn found Stairs’ friends and teammates more than willing to sing his praises, including Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (portrayed by Brad Pitt in the film Moneyball).
“[Beane] said that if Matt was playing today the way he played when he was with Oakland, he would be making something like $20 million a year because he had such a powerful swing,” she said.
While Stairs’ popularity grew as he traveled from team to team, his role as a journeyman player was not an easy one.
“Eventually he accepted that it was his role to go into these cities when they needed a slugger,” she explained. “I learned that it takes an incredible amount of mental skill to sit on the bench for long periods of time, and then get called up to bat and get the job done. That’s a lot harder than somebody who gets to play every game. He accepted that role.”
In the end, it was not Stairs’ many MLB accomplishments that Munn found the most impressive — it was his down-to-earth humility.
“Matt’s the type of person who believes in hard work, putting in the extra time, being disciplined and being respectful of others,” she said. “He’s just a simple guy, he’s never changed.”
A book tour began this past weekend in Fredericton. Dates have yet to be announced for future stops, but the tour is expected to travel across the province. Books will also be available at all three Ross Drugs locations and proceeds will help support the Fredericton Minor Baseball Association.
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