12/24/08 10:00 AM EST
Roenicke relishes holiday tradition
Halos coach celebrates family with food, sports, prayer
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
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.