Holiday Q&A with Matt Diaz
Braves outfielder talks about Christmas in sunny Florida
Matt Diaz joined the Braves as a journeyman before the start of the 2006 season and four seasons later, he has established himself as a regular offensive contributor whose sense of humor makes him a popular clubhouse figure. MLB.com recently caught up with the 31-year-old outfielder to discuss some of his favorite memories and traditions of the holiday season.
MLB.com: You recently signed a new contract that doubled your salary. Does that mean that your two young kids can expect to get twice as many gifts this year?
Diaz: My son will be 3 on Dec. 30 and my daughter isn't quite 2 yet. So they're still at that stage where they enjoy the boxes more than the toys that are in them. So we won't go crazy and spoil them with anything.
Last year, we got them Florida prepaid college plans that will go to their tuition at state schools here in Florida. They obviously didn't know what they were, but they'll appreciate it when they only have to work half as much at The Gap or wherever to be able to have spending money when they go to school.
MLB.com: What was the most memorable gift you received as a child?
Diaz: I'd have to say it was a bike that I got when I was 9 or 10. I don't know. All I remember is that it was really cold, and I still went outside to ride that bike. I still remember that my hands were just freezing.
MLB.com: You grew up in Florida and you're still living there in the Lakeland area. Have you ever wished you could see a White Christmas?
Diaz: Not really. When we were younger, we went skiing a few times during the holiday season and got to see snow. But when you're used to the sun, after about 7-10 days of that stuff, you want to get back to Florida where people water ski on Christmas.
MLB.com: Have you seriously seen people water skiing on Christmas?
Diaz: I don't know if it was definitely on Christmas or not, but I remember going into Lakeland to see the city's water ski club put on a Christmas show every year. I still remember the guy skiing fully decked out in his Santa outfit.
MLB.com What was one of your favorite family traditions?
Diaz: Every Christmas Eve, we would have a birthday party for Jesus. My mother would make a sheet cake and serve ice cream. We always got to open a gift that day. It was never anything big, but my brothers and I thought those gifts were always pretty cool. In fact, we all still like those small gifts that we get that day.
MLB.com: So that same tradition is alive and well?
Diaz: Yeah, this is the first year we're going to host the event. My mother has removed some of the stress by agreeing to once again prepare the sheet cake. I'm pretty sure my wife could handle it, but my mother has perfected that recipe.
MLB.com: So have you ever gone swimming on Christmas?
Diaz: Yeah, I remember getting a swing set one year and it had an attachment that went out over the lake. I'm pretty sure that my brothers and I accidentally fell into the lake on purpose a couple of times.
MLB.com You're household consisted of four boys separated by seven years in age. Did this lead to you occasionally arguing about gifts?
Diaz: There was one year when we all pooled our money together and bought a Nintendo. So that year, my mother got us John Elway football or something. My little brother kept running this trick play against me -- I think it was a fake punt that made a guy too fast to cover -- and I ended up throwing the controller at him.
My mother told me that I couldn't play the rest of the day and to make it an even tougher punishment, I had to sit there in the room and watch my brothers play.
MLB.com: What would be the best gifts somebody could get some of your teammates?
Diaz: I really can't think of anything for Peter Moylan that wouldn't sound too mean. For Nate McLouth, I'd get him a new black shirt to replace the one he wore under his sports coat when we were traveling during every road trip this past year.
For Brian McCann, I'd get him some hair gel to help him with the Faux Hawk that he's trying to grow. And being a Florida State guy, I think I would get Chipper one of those Amazon Kindle readers because for being a Florida Gator fan, he sure does a lot of reading.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.