KANSAS CITY -- Aaron Crow is just about the only Royals player who spends the winter in Kansas City, but he has family not far away.
Crow grew up in the small community of Wakarusa, just down the road near Topeka, Kan., where he went to Washburn Rural High School. He went on to become a pitching star at the University of Missouri, so he feels at home on both sides of Kansas City.
An All-Star selection in his rookie season of 2011, Crow has become one of the premier pieces of the Royals' very young and very successful bullpen.
He'll be spending the holidays in Wakarusa with his parents, Kevin and Julie; his brother, Travis; and his sister, Jennifer.
MLB.com spoke to him at the Red Stocking Breakfast at Jack's Stack Barbecue in Overland Park, Kan., where he was helping serve tables at an annual event that raises money to help fight child abuse. Not long before, he'd served the Royals' annual Thanksgiving meal to about 300 men at the City Union Mission in Kansas City, Mo.
You seem to be in the spirit of the season.
It's always fun to give back, especially at this time of year -- Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the holidays. It's always fun to give back to the community and get out and meet people I wouldn't meet otherwise. I enjoy doing that.
Is Christmas a good time of year for you?
Yeah, I've always had a great time. As a kid, my family didn't have a bunch. My parents were middle class so there was nothing special, but it was always a fun time being around family and getting to see everybody. Just spending time back in Topeka - there's nothing better than that.
Did you usually have a large family gathering?
Yeah, everyone would get together. My mom doesn't have many cousins, but there are aunts and uncles and grandparents. It's always fun to see them, especially when they come in from out of town. Everyone is in such a great mood and giving and thankful for all the opportunities that we have. It's always great to get back together with people you love and care about and don't get to see as often as you'd like.
Looking back, when you were a kid what present did you really like?
Probably my favorite gift of all time was Nintendo 64, from about 1996. I still have it and play all the games.
Did you get any bats, balls and gloves?
Probably at some point but, I mean, that wasn't the important stuff. The important [one] was Mario Kart, a video game. I really don't play video games much anymore, but when I do decide to play them, it's the old ones -- not the new PlayStation or Xbox games.
What have you got planned for this Christmas?
Heading back to Topeka. Nothing big planned. The family's coming into town, so I'll get together with them and relax for a few days back at my parents' house.
Do you have any contact with your teammates at this time of year?
I keep in touch with a few of the guys. It was [Eric] Hosmer's birthday not long ago and I talk to Hoz and [Chris] Getz and [Everett] Teaford on a pretty regular basis. A few, like [Louis] Coleman and [Greg] Holland, more sporadically but we keep in touch pretty well.
Do you have any decorations at your place in Kansas City?
I have an apartment and I have -- well, it's not really a tree. More like a decoration on my kitchen table. It's kind of a tree. It looks like a tree but it's not. My mom gave it to me last year, so I pulled it out of storage.
Mothers are handy to have, aren't they?
Especially mine. She's the greatest; she's the best. My dad's great, too, but I don't want to pick favorites. My mom's a better cook, though.
Are you going to give them presents this year?
Yeah, sure. They took care of me for 25 years, so I think it's my turn to do something nice for them.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.