12/24/08 10:00 AM EST
Robertson stresses spirit of giving
Tigers left-hander eager to pass on selfless values to his son
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
This year, he and his family will spend Christmas in Michigan for the first time, welcoming relatives and friends from other parts of the country. It will also be the first Christmas as parents for Nate and Kristin following the birth of their son, Wyatt, in February. He shared his holiday memories and his hopes for the future with MLB.com.
MLB.com: You've done a lot of community visits this offseason. What has it been like for you to interact with the community during these times?
Robertson: Well, you know, it's hard for me to speak about tough times when a lot of people look at a guy like me and think there's no way I can relate and understand what they're going through. But the truth of it is, my wife and I just came back from a holiday party the Tigers put on for a group of foster children. Even people that are going through tough times, whether they've lost their job or they have the anxiety of possibly losing their job and the economy's tough, you go into a situation like this and you see these kids who really never had families growing up.
Just the opportunity to go and have a dinner at a ballpark -- a lot of them are teenage kids, too -- they just had a great time and you should've seen their faces when these gift certificates were presented to them. When you see little things like that, that's what it's all about. My wife and I, we've been up here for a while now, and we know that it's important. Serving others before you serve yourself, that's how things work. That's what it means to us in this community. There's tough times, and then there's really tough times. You can talk about the economy all you want, but when you have kids that have next to nothing or just the clothes on their back, well, that's pretty tough. It's just how you measure it.
MLB.com: What's your first holiday season as a parent like so far?
Robertson: I guess it's learning the groundwork as far as how we're going to celebrate with our son and being careful as to what we give him and why we give it to him, because there's an opportunity to spoil the heck out of him, and you have to watch yourself when you do something like that. When he grows, he has to understand the value of things. You have the opportunity, especially during Christmas, the season of giving, to teach your kids a lot of things. Even at nine months, you give him a toy and you take it from him, and you can see how quickly he can turn on you. Christmas is a celebration of a time when God sent his son to serve others and put others before himself.
MLB.com: Is there a big holiday tradition in your family?
Robertson: We're actually spending our first Christmas here in Michigan. That's one big change, not just Wyatt. The tradition at home, it's kind of funny. When you're growing up, it expands, and once you start a family and your brothers and sisters start families, it downsizes again. We just kind of typically do our Christmas morning together as a family. On Christmas Eve, we still just kind of do whatever, staying up late, wrapping some gifts. More than anything, we try to enjoy it a little bit more in kind of a quiet setting, have a meal together, watch a movie together. "A Christmas Story" is playing nonstop, one of my all-time favorite movies, and I think I've got my wife on board with that now, too.
Outside of Cleveland, and it's only like a 10-minute cab ride, they have the house from "A Christmas Story" where I think they did about half of the movie shooting outside the house with the Red Rider BB gun. We took pictures right there in front of the leg lamp. It was cool, because I like the movie so much. And Christmas came down with Wyatt this year, and I bought him a Red Rider BB gun.
MLB.com: What's the best Christmas gift you ever received as a kid?
Robertson: I think looking back, we had some really cool stuff. And most of what we got was pretty much handmade by my dad. We weren't big spenders because we couldn't spend big. We didn't have a whole lot, and my dad was always a mastermind in many trades. I'd say one of the coolest things that we got my dad made, a dune buggy. We still have it. It was just a really cool little buggy. All the parts were just scrap parts, just leftovers from the base that he worked at in the Army. He knows how to weld. He's really good with his hands. He welded all these scrap pieces together, and out comes a red dune buggy with a big exhaust coming out and a Kawasaki engine. He had a clutch system that he really just threw together. He got a seat belt out of a salvage yard, some Buick or something. And it was just an awesome little ride.
The funny story behind that is that I wrecked it Christmas morning. He pulled it out and we looked in the garage at it, like this thing is crazy. I was kind of intimidated by it. I was probably 10, 11 years old, somewhere around there, and I got on there, I got going, the thing took off on me, I felt like I was losing control. I turned the corner and I went right into the back end of the family Lincoln. I busted up the back fender of the car and I busted up the buggy. The best gift I ever got, and I wrecked it. But I think it was one of the coolest gifts I ever got.
MLB.com: Are you a last-minute shopper, or do you get your gift-buying out of the way early?
Robertson: Oh, I'm last-minute. It never seems to fail, just never seems to fail. And it's just not the smart thing to do. I feel like you actually pretty much narrowed it down to the exact thing that you want to get by that time. That's the approach, I guess. That's my excuse.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.