Q&A with Jason Grilli
Pitcher talks about everything from GI Joe to Guitar Hero
Tigers pitcher Jason Grilli knew how big of an event the holiday season was in a baseball family even before he broke into professional ball thanks to his father, Steve. The Grillis spent many a snowy Christmas together while Jason was growing up in upstate New York. They'll bypass the winter weather and gather at Jason's home in Florida this year, but it'll be a special holiday for Jason for more than the weather. He and his wife are expecting their first child, a boy, in February. He spent a few minutes with MLB.com discussing what the season means to him.
MLB.com: Having grown up in a baseball family, how important has Christmas been in your family, when you know everybody can be together?
Jason Grilli: It's definitely huge. Holidays for us are huge especially when you're away from them so much throughout the year. For us, the holidays that we play [during] can be tough. Any holiday, I think, especially during the baseball season, whether it's a birthday or a wedding, those are the occasions that sometimes you miss out on, unless it's someone in your immediate family. So Christmas and Thanksgiving are very huge in the sense that it's a point to celebrate the holiday for what it is. I celebrate Christmas and we celebrate the birth of Jesus and what his sacrifice means to us and we celebrate being together.
MLB.com: Is there a big holiday tradition in your family?
Grilli: The big things are the stockings. Usually we have some sort of fish or seafood for our meal. And we usually try to go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
MLB.com: How much different is it for you nowadays when you spend the holiday in Florida?
Grilli: Honestly, to do what I'm doing, it definitely makes it easier. I've been playing catch. It's nicer to play catch in 82-degree weather on a baseball field than it is indoors at PNC Stadium [in Syracuse] like I was doing in the batting cages. I do miss the feel a little bit of Christmas up in the Northeast, but I don't miss the cold. I think it's because our blood has thinned. If it's any consolation, my family is very excited to get out of the cold and get down here and enjoy Christmas in the pool. It is a different feel, but it's still very festive. Christmas, it doesn't matter where you're at, it's who you're with.
MLB.com: Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?
Grilli: There's a couple of them. I love "Christmas Vacation" and "Christmas Story." Those are the best. Usually on TBS, we keep that on all day. They play it like 24 hours on Christmas Day. We might see it about 50 times. My mom's excited, too, because we got some games like Deal or No Deal on DVD. Some of the other ones might have to be a secret because they're gifts. And surprising or not, my mom is a Guitar Hero fan. Maybe that's where I get my love for music.
MLB.com: Are you an early shopper or do you wait until the last minute?
Grilli: Already got it all done [says proudly].
MLB.com: A lot of people don't know you're a big tech guy. What's on your gift list?
Grilli: Any man will tell you that, since we don't get the manicure, pedicure, facial kind of thing, men usually go for electronics. But I am pretty set. People tell me that I'm hard to buy for, but I don't want anything. I really don't. I feel like I have everything that I could want and ask for, and I'm grateful for that. I really enjoy the giving part. I gave my dad an early Christmas present this year and gave him XM radio.
The other big thing in our family are the VOIP video phones, which I'm involved in. It's really helped me bridge the gap between being on the road and not being able to see my family and now being together. Now my other family members are joining in. But I feel like I'm getting the best gift. We're having a son in Feburary. That's what makes this Christmas so meaningful, it's going to be great.
MLB.com: You have a business that you run off the field. How much time do you spend on that once the season is over?
Grilli: It's pretty cool. My Web site is actually supposed to be partially done around the end of December [www.jasongrilli.com]. It's not going to be solely about my business. I know Gary Sheffield has a site. Mine's going to entail quite a bit. There's a lot of things outside of baseball that I have an interest in. A lot of people ask me how I'm not distracted. If anything, my mind works the opposite. The more I do, the better my mind works. I've been like that ever since I was in school.
MLB.com: What's the best holiday gift you ever received?
Grilli: I think my ultimate gift out of all the gifts I remember was the GI Joe aircraft carrier. It was the actual seven-foot model. It was the ultimate, and I remember I knew what it was when I came down and saw the tree and it took up the whole wall. That was the best Christmas, and one of the funniest things was another year when my dad first videotaped Christmas and my mom went crazy on gifts and I remember my dad said [on the tape], 'There's more?' It was a funny Christmas. I think we got everything that year.
And again, when you're a kid, it's all about getting stuff and Santa. As generations pass, we're starting a new generation of Grillis. When [my son is] 2 or 3 years old and he learns what Christmas is all about, I think I'll be crying.
MLB.com: Does it feel like a Christmas present at all getting Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera on your team?
Grilli: I'll tell you what the real present is: If those guys do, in fact, help us get to the World Series and win the World Series and help put rings on our fingers, that'll definitely be a present [laughs]. But no, really, getting those guys will definitely be impactful. I think the addition to them strengthened our ballclub. That goes without saying.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.