Stairs's run in Navojoa won't last forever. If he agrees to a lucrative big-league contract (he made $165,000 last season and as of Sunday hadn't signed a deal for 1998) or if he thinks he'll miss Lisa and their three daughters, Nicole, 7, Alicia, 4, and Chandler, 1, too much, he won't return next year. Right now, though, he's doing his Christmas fund-raising, and he wants to take two of his favorite kids—boys he has nicknamed Chucky and Spanky—shopping to buy them gifts. They're children of a family that survives by selling boiled corn at the ballpark.
It is 11 o'clock on a cool, dusty night in Navojoa. Stairs has hit a home run to seal a 2-0 win, and in the yellow light outside the stadium, children have gathered around him. A man of about 40 approaches, walking with a limp. He stops and eyes Stairs. Three little girls huddle at the man's legs, until he pushes one of his daughters forward and asks Stairs to please give her a kiss. "Un beso, Mateo, un beso, por favor" he implores. Stairs blushes, and instead he bends down and offers his hand. The girl is perhaps six years old. "What's your name?" he asks in Spanish. The child, her slender hand invisible in Stairs's meaty paw, her eyes round as tortillas, answers softly, "Gabriela."
"Gabriela. it's good to meet you." Stairs says, maintaining his gentle grip. "I'm Matt."