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12/24/08 10:00 AM EST

Roenicke relishes holiday tradition

Halos coach celebrates family with food, sports, prayer

Ron Roenicke is the right-hand man to Angels manager Mike Scioscia, serving as bench coach with multiple roles. Roenicke's input involves strategy, positioning and other inside aspects of the game. He grew up in Southern California, born in Covina and raised in West Covina, in an athletic family, from both sides. Roenicke's brother, Gary, enjoyed a 12-year Major League career as an outfielder with four clubs -- the Expos, Orioles, Yankees and Braves -- and now works for Baltimore as a scout. Ron began his career in the Dodgers' organization and was an outfielder for eight Major League seasons with the Dodgers, Mariners, Padres, Giants, Phillies and Reds. The holidays, as Ron explains, are a magical time of year for the Roenicke family, which gathers each year in numbers at their mother's home for hoops, volleyball, great food, memories and prayer.

MLB.com: Why is this season so special to you?

Holiday Q&A width=
ARI: Conor Jackson
ATL: Blaine Boyer
BAL: Jeremy Guthrie
BOS: M. Delcarmen
CHC: Kevin Gregg
CWS: John Danks
CIN: Jay Bruce
CLE: Ryan Garko
COL: Clint Barmes
DET: Nate Robertson
FLA: Josh Johnson
HOU: Chris Sampson
KC: Trey Hillman
LAA: Ron Roenicke
LAD: Andre Ethier
MIL: Seth McClung
MIN: Joe Nathan
NYM: Mike Pelfrey
NYY: Brian Bruney
OAK: J. Duchscherer
PHI: Jimmy Rollins
PIT: Frank Coonelly
SD: Chase Headley
SF: Sergio Romo
SEA: Don Wakamatsu
STL: John Roney
TB: Grant Balfour
TEX: Ian Kinsler
TOR: Rod Barajas
WAS: Steven Shell

Roenicke: I was raised in a church atmosphere, and most all of us are Christians. That's very important to us. We would always go out the night before Christmas to a late, candlelight service, around 11:30 or midnight. That's still very important to my mom, Corliss, and all our family. Christmas really is meaningful to all of us.

MLB.com: What makes Christmas Day such a special occasion?

Roenicke: Well, it starts early with basketball, highly competitive games, at my mom's house. We've had these games for years, and it still goes on. Gary and I stopped playing, but the younger guys still go at it. There's always basketball on Christmas morning. It's a tradition.

Our son, Lance, is playing baseball at UC Santa Barbara, and Gary has three sons who are athletes. Josh is a pitcher with the Reds; he pitched [in five games] for them this year. Another of Gary's boys, Jason, signed with Toronto, and Jarrett was in the San Diego organization for a couple of years.

MLB.com: Easy to see how those games could get pretty hotly contested. Do you miss that?

Roenicke: It's time for the younger ones now. We also have cousins and nephews on my mother's side of the family who play. She was a great runner, and her brother, Doug Kranz, played halfback at USC behind Jon Arnett. My dad played ball at Mt. San Antonio College and Whittier and coached basketball, football and basketball. So, sports are definitely in our blood.

MLB.com: When you were kids, who was better in hoops, you or Gary?

Roenicke:Oh, Gary, no doubt. We both played in high school, but Gary was always big and strong. He led the league in scoring. He lives in Northern California now, but the whole family is here for Christmas at Mom's house.

MLB.com: So, what comes after the morning basketball game?

Roenicke: Going all the way back to when our grandparents lived nearby, we've always had the best breakfast in the world on Christmas. Different family members contribute in different ways. I'm in charge of the ham. We have a special way of doing it that began with my grandmother, and I carry on that tradition. We have at least 25 family members over, so it's a big breakfast in a lot of ways.

MLB.com: Sounds like you probably spend the rest of the day digesting that breakfast and relaxing.

Roenicke: Actually, it's more sports. We play some more basketball, then we go to Chino Hills High School -- my wife, Karen, is a teacher there -- for a big volleyball game. That's men and women, boys and girls, and I still get involved in that one. It's a lot of fun for everyone.

MLB.com: How about shopping? Do you get involved in that, or do you leave it to your wife?

Roenicke: Oh, she does the shopping. I'm in charge of my brother's gift.

MLB.com: One last question. Any memories of one special Christmas gift or gifts?

Roenicke: Not really. What I always remember are the stockings hanging and running to see what was in them with Gary and our sister, Debbie. That's something my grandparents started, and our mom still does it with all of her grandchildren.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.