SAN DIEGO - The familiar face wore eyeglasses and peered down at a stapled packet of office paper. The room pulsed with the thumping bass of a younger generation of music, first rap and then rock and then rap again. As Matt Stairs pored over that night's advance scouting report, a thoughtful countenance enveloped him. He looked studious. He looked contemplative.

He looked, dare we say, managerial?

"I probably won't even take a year off," Stairs said. "I'll probably go right into coaching."

By all accounts, the opportunity will be there. Right now, Stairs is enjoying the latest chapter of the final act of his career, a bench role on a Padres team that entered last night with the best record in the National League. He has started just three games since the All-Star break, and entered last night hitting .200 with three home runs in 75 at-bats. But at 42 years old, in his 18th major league season, with his 12th team, Stairs is well aware that he is past the point of 400 plate-appearance production. Like his 2 years in Philadelphia, and the two World Series that came as a result, his time with the Padres is more about experience.

And experience is the reason he doesn't plan on disappearing from baseball any time soon. Ask him right now, and he'll tell you that this will probably be his final season as a player. Of course, there was time during the offseason when he thought his final season had already passed. That Saturday, he decided to announce his retirement. The following Monday, the Padres called with an invitation to spring training on a minor league deal.

At some point in the near future, though, Stairs the slugger will become Stairs the coach. And it might even be with the Phillies.

"I think he'd be real good at it," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think he loves baseball. I think he's been around. He's been on a lot of teams. I think that he's a character. I think that he's a good communicator."

The Phillies offered him two minor league managing jobs last offseason, Stairs said. He had endured a difficult end to the 2009 season, going 4-for-49 with two home runs and 15 strikeouts in the final 3 months of the season. One year after his eighth inning, go-ahead home run at Dodger Stadium in Game 4 of the NLCS cemented his place in Philadelphia folklore, Stairs spent the postseason as an afterthought, going 1-for-10 with one RBI in nine games.

"I was ready," he said of the minor league offers. "But I think it came too quick. It came 9 hours after I got home. I didn't have a whole lot of time to think about it. I was very happy they offered me, but I wanted to take some time to think about what I wanted to do."

And he still wanted to play. He lost more than 30 pounds and sat back and waited for an opportunity. He earned a spot with the Padres in spring training, becoming the most veteran player on a team that entered last night leading the NL West by six games.

Whether he gets another chance in 2011 remains to be seen. He rejected the coaching offers he received this offseason. But at some point, he will accept, whether it is with the Phillies or another major league organization.

"They only gave me about 24 hours to think about it," said Stairs, who coaches high school hockey in Maine during the offseason. "It's something I want to do. I'd love to manage. I'd love to be a hitting coach. So when the season is over, and hopefully then the World Series, we'll make that decision."

Until then, he'll continue to enjoy the ride.

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