Everybody loves the holidays and, of course, baseball players are no exception. Each year at Christmas time, I survey a group of Phillies prospects about what they get excited for during the holiday season.
Players taking part in this year’s sixth annual questionnaire include 4th round draft pick first baseman Kyle Martin, 2nd round pick second baseman Scott Kingery, slugging outfielders Nick Williams and Dylan Cozens, righty relievers Matt Hockenberry, Jason Zgardowski and Stephen Shackleford as well as lefty reliever Joey DeNato.
Questions and answers detailing each player’s holly jolly holiday favorites are ahead…
-What is your favorite Christmas movie or TV special?
Martin: I love comedies, so I gotta go with National Lampoons’ Christmas Vacation.
Kingery: A Christmas Story. That was one of my dad’s favorites and we watched that one every year, growing up. I see a couple times each year.
Williams: Favorite Christmas movie would have to either be Best Man Holiday or all the Home Alone movies. I like all the Home Alones and I still watch them to this day.
Cozens: Elf. Just love Will Ferrell. Whole movies was great.
Hockenberry: I watch A Christmas Story at least seven times on Christmas day. We just keep TBS on and just come and go. We are actually spending Christmas out at my grandfather’s and he’s got three or four TV’s…and we just throw TBS on, so no matter what room you’re in, you’re watching A Christmas Story. It’s more about hanging out with your family.
Shackleford: I really like all the cartoon movies, like The Nightmare Before Christmas and all the (claymation) ones. I like A Christmas Story. Stuff like that.
Zgardowski: Favorite Christmas movie had to be Home Alone. Just because you get to thinking what would you do. Also it doesn’t hurt that when I was 10, I always thought people getting over tripping over stuff was pretty funny, especially if it’s the bad guys in the movie. But now that I’m older I got to go with Bad Santa.
DeNato: The Santa Clause. It never gets old.
-What is your favorite Christmas song and which version do you prefer?
Martin: I don’t listen to a lot of Christmas carols.
Williams: This might sound a little fruity, but I like the Justin Bieber Mistletoe song.
Cozens: Jingle Bells, I think.
Hockenberry: I would have to go with the cartoon version of The Grinch. That’s something that has always stuck out in my mind. Either that, or there’s a couple songs from the Polar Express, but I would have to go with The Grinch.
Shackleford: I don’t know if I have a 100-percent favorite, but I’ve always liked the Mariah Carey one, All I Want for Christmas is You. That’s a good one.
Zgardowski: Its got to be Rudolph the Red Nose reindeer! The only version I know is the original and thats the best one.
DeNato: Any cover the Pitch Perfect cast sings.
-What is your favorite food to eat at Christmas time and who makes it?
Martin: I love the Christmas cookies and the Christmas cakes. I just love all the desserts that come with Christmas. The gingerbread men. My mom makes some great cookies and so does my aunt and I could never pass up four or five of those.
Kingery: Well, sweet potatoes. My mom got the recipe from my grandmom and they’re incredible.
Williams: Probably, I really like tamales because I’m half Mexican, my mother’s hispanic, so that would have to be my favorite. My grandma and my grandma’s sisters make it.
Cozens: Grandma’s lentil soup and bread.
Hockenberry: That depends on whether or not I’m playing Santa Claus for my cousins. If that’s the case, then it might be milk and cookies. But, no, I know my grandmother makes some kind of seasoned ham. When you bite into it, it melts in your mouth. I don’t know what she does to it, but whatever she does, it’s definitely something that I look forward to during the Christmas season.
Shackleford: My mom bakes sugar cookies at Christmas and I really like those.
Zgardowski: Favorite food during Christmas has to be a nice simple glazed ham. Usually, it’s either my mom or one of my family members that makes it.
DeNato: Favorite food to eat…my wife makes caramel apple pie cookies. They are unreal!
-Do you have a Phillies ornament on your Christmas tree?
Martin (who grew up in SC with a Philadelphia sports fan for a father): My dad always had a Philly ornament on the tree whether it was Flyers or Eagles or a Phanatic ornament. We always had at least one somewhere.
Kingery: We have one. We have one Phillie ornament.
Shackleford: My mom does. She likes to collect that kind of stuff for the team’s I’ve been with. There’s a little spot on her wall that has all the organizations and at Christmas time she has the ornaments.
-What is your most memorable Christmas gift from childhood?
Kingery: A trampoline, for sure. Yeah, that was by far the best one that sticks in my mind. I remember running out there on Christmas day and I didn’t get off till it got dark out.
Cozens: A paintball gun I got when I was about 12. It was from my mom and dad and i was able to use it right away. After I got it, I created a mini paintball course in my back yard out of rocks and tree branches and would have paint ball wars with my friends back there.
Williams: I got an electric scooter. That’s probably my favorite because I had that thing for a while.
Hockenberry: I just remember, I think I was nine or 10, I was very, very upset because I thought Santa didn’t bring me the Playstation 1 when it came out. But, my parents actually got it for me and the game I got was the original Spiderman and I think that Christmas I played it for eight hours straight.
Zgardowski: Probably has to be when I got my first baseball glove and that same night breaking it in by putting it in the oven and wrapping it with 2 baseballs in it, then sleeping with it because i wanted to use it as soon as possible.
DeNato: I got my first bike from my parents. I rode it everywhere. My friends and I would build bike jumps in a canyon by my parents’ house.
–Do you recall the discovery of some displeasing news about Santa’s existence that we all find out in our childhood?
Martin: I remember I was in school one day and me and some kid were messing around and we ended up having the argument about Santa and he came out and said Santa wasn’t real. I was so dumbfounded and she had to sit me down and give me the whole spiel and, yeah, that was a rough day, but sooner or later we all find out. I think I was in second grade then.
Kingery: No, I cannot remember when I found out…I think I kind of figured it out on my own. I don’t think I ever had to be told. Maybe I walked in on my parents wrapping presents and then when I saw them under the tree, they said, “from Santa”, so I think I figured it out. It wasn’t a big surprise.
Williams: I found out when I was seven or six years old actually. My older brother, he always gave me a hard time and I remember telling me that Santa wasn’t real. It didn’t bother me that much, I kind of figured because I never wrote a Christmas list, so how the heck did Santa know what I wanted?
Cozens: Pretty sure my older brother told me when I was too young to even care that much. Then I did the same thing to my younger sisters.
Hockenberry: My mom’s brother, his name’s Michael, one time he dressed his dog Homer up as Rudolph. I thought that was a little fishy. I want to say I was about seven years old at the time. But he had a legitimate Santa suit and I really thought it was Santa, but I think the next year my mom told me, “That was your uncle.” It was bitter sweet. Just to keep the holiday spirit up, I love asking (the kids I coach) if they believe in Santa. I tell them you should believe in Santa, because you always need something to believe in.
Shackleford: I found out when I was, I think, 12 and I didn’t believe my parents. I acted like they were wrong for a while and that they lied to me.
Zgardowski: Wait- Santa isn’t real? Wow thanks for ruining Christmas this year for me!
DeNato: I was skeptical for a while when I realized Santa has the same hand writing as my mom. Then I was snooping one year and found a Nintendo 64 and when I opened it on Christmas Day, it said it was from Santa and that’s when I knew.
Also, check out previous editions of the holiday survey with the likes of Aaron Nola, Cody Asche, Cameron Rupp, Darin Ruf and others sharing all their Christmastime favorites by clicking the following links- 2014 survey, 2013 edition, 2012 edition, 2011 edition and 2010 edition. Happy holidays to all.