Nathan has holiday traditions with kids
Closer getting ready for Christmas with wife and two children
Twins closer Joe Nathan has been recognized as one of the best in the game at his job. And just last March, he signed an extension that will keep the All-Star closer in a Twins uniform through the 2011 season.But before Nathan turns all of his focus to the Twins' upcoming season, their last one inside the Metrodome, he will be enjoying the holiday season with his family at his home in Knoxville, Tenn. Nathan was in Las Vegas during the Winter Meetings earlier this month and sat down with MLB.com to discuss the holiday season, his favorite gifts and what he's looking forward to as the 2009 season approaches.
MLB.com: The holidays are once again upon us. And with the hotels and casinos here on the Vegas strip all decked out for the season, it's easy to get in the holiday spirit. Do you have a lot of traditions at this time of the year?Nathan: I think I have more traditions now that I have my own family. The one tradition we had growing up in my house was that once you go upstairs to bed, you couldn't come downstairs or Santa was definitely not coming. It wasn't just about Santa because with having seven kids in the house, they didn't wrap all the presents. So instead, they just piled them under the tree. Now with my wife Lisa's family, we have a bunch of traditions -- including a seafood dinner on Christmas Eve, which is my favorite meal of the year. MLB.com: Have the holidays taken on a little extra meaning now that you have your two kids -- Cole, 4, and Riley, 20 months? Nathan: It's become a lot more fun, especially with Cole now being 4. He knows what's going on. He went and sat on two Santas' laps and told them what he wanted for Christmas. We saw another Santa and I was like, "Hey, Cole, do you want to go see Santa again?" and he said, "I already told him what I wanted twice, so don't you think he knows?" So I told him, "Yeah, he probably knows." I know Cole is going to be super excited to get up in the morning this year, which means we are probably getting up at 5:30 a.m. But I think it will only get more fun as the years go along and Riley gets a little older. MLB.com: Since your kids are getting old enough to help you get ready for Santa this year, are there any specific things you'll do? Nathan: Well, I told them that Santa really likes peanut butter cookies, not chocolate chip. So I'm helping them to make sure that they put the right cookies and milk out for Santa. MLB.com: It's hard not to take a few steps in these Vegas hotels right now without seeing lots of holiday decorations. Does your family really get into decorating for Christmas? Nathan: I think you could say we have a Christmas store going through our house. But I don't really have that much to do with it. We have people come over and do the outside lights because I don't want to fall and break my neck or anything on the roof. MLB.com: I think the Twins appreciate your thoughtfulness on that one. Nathan: Yeah, I could probably do it next year because we aren't going to do lights on the house. We decided just to do it on the trees. But inside the house, my job is essentially bringing the tree up from the basement and putting it together. After that, it's basically me carrying stuff. I'm not really putting decorations out, I just have to do the muscle work. Bring it from storage to wherever Lisa needs it. MLB.com: So with all of the decorating done at your house, have you made your Christmas list for this year, and what's on it? Nathan: My family keeps asking me what I want, and I never really have an answer for them. I told them to get me some new movies and DVDs and some new CDs that I could download into the system at the house so I have it on my library. MLB.com: So you're a hard person to buy for? Nathan: It would seem like it, but Lisa just went to Atlanta to go Christmas shopping. As she was there, she texted me, "I got your present," with exclamation points all across the text. She told me that I'm going to love it and that I'll never guess what it is. I think I'll guess it before Christmas gets here but she told me, no chance. So I guess I'll just have to wait and see. MLB.com: Sounds like you've got a great present waiting for you. Do you feel like you are a good gift-giver yourself? Nathan: I think so. I went to Toys 'R Us the other day to pick up something for Cole that Lisa wanted me to get. I think I ended up walking out of there with five things. I came back home and Lisa was like, "What are you doing?" But I just kept finding stuff that I was like, "Oh he's got to have that. I had that as a kid." But Lisa really does most of the shopping. I just really have to worry about getting her a gift. I think I'm fairly good at it. She usually tells me a lot of the stuff she wants, like Starbucks gift cards or Yankee Candles. Then I'll think of something by myself, usually one big thing, to get her. MLB.com: Speaking of all these gifts, what is the best one you've ever received? Nathan: It probably wasn't even a huge Christmas gift, but when I was younger, I got this little motorcycle handlebar game. I probably remember it so clearly because it made this real loud sound, like a dirt bike. You'd sit there and you'd steer. The game is, like, in front of you and you just had to steer around obstacles. I just remember how loud it was. I'd wake up at 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning because I was excited to have this game. I'd turn it on and start playing and get yelled at every morning. But I couldn't stop playing, and growing up in New York, it was freezing outside, so it's not like I could take it outside and play. So I just kept turning it on and getting yelled at. That's probably the one I remember most. MLB.com: All right, it's time to have a little fun. I'm going to have you play Secret Santa for the Twins. You get to pick three people on the team to buy gifts for and then tell me what you'd pick out for them. Nathan: OK, let me think. Well, first off I'd see if I could find Cuddy [Michael Cuddyer] some of those Harry Caray glasses, because I'm sure he's going to be a broadcaster some day. And I think he needs some of those. Then for Matt Guerrier, he would probably get ... I mean, I could get him anything and he'd like it. I could get him a frosty mug and he'd be pumped. He'd walk into a room with it, carrying it and saying, "Yes, I got a frosty mug." And lastly, I'd get Brian Buscher a guitar. He's been teaching us all how to play and I'm sure he could always use another one. MLB.com: Although the focus of this Q&A is the holidays, I can't go without adding a little baseball in as well. Being here in Vegas this week, I'm sure you've thought about how you could have been one of the free agents this winter had you not signed an extension with the Twins this past March. Are you happy to be here this week as a spectator, not a participant? Nathan: Yeah, I am. When we signed, I knew there is always going to be a part of you that's intrigued by the whole system. But being here and seeing guys that are going through it, it's exciting, but it's still kind of a headache. I feel very blessed that we got something done last year, and my family and I knew where we were going to be. We like where we are, and I think it was the perfect way for us to do it. I'm excited that I don't have to go through this process. Seeing guys like K-Rod [closer Francisco Rodriguez] struggle to get more than three years on his deal and being a younger guy, maybe it's because the economy is the way it is, it just makes you wonder what would have been out there. But I'm really glad to be with my team and looking ahead toward 2009.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.