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Tradition central to Musgrove family's holidays

December 19, 2017

HOUSTON -- It was a year to remember for pitcher Joe Musgrove, who made the Astros' rotation out of Spring Training and endured some ups and downs before becoming a key member of the club's bullpen late in the season during its run to the franchise's first World Series championship.

HOUSTON -- It was a year to remember for pitcher Joe Musgrove, who made the Astros' rotation out of Spring Training and endured some ups and downs before becoming a key member of the club's bullpen late in the season during its run to the franchise's first World Series championship.
Musgrove, 25, went 4-8 with a 6.12 ERA in 15 starts to begin the season before posting a 1.44 ERA in his final 23 appearances out of the bullpen, holding opponents to a .196 batting average. Musgrove has been spending time at home in the San Diego area since the final out of Houston's title run.
Musgrove plans to do some more reveling in the days leading up to Christmas, when he hopes to partake in some long-standing family traditions and eat the kind of foods that will have him doing some extra sprints when he reports to Spring Training in February.
MLB.com: You come from a large family. What were the holidays like in your house growing up?
Musgrove: Lots of food. It starts off kind of with the baking. All the girls in my families -- aunts, grandmas, everybody -- they all meet up a couple of weeks before Christmas and they have a two- or three-day marathon of baking, where they do all kinds of Italian cookies. They make pastas, they make lasagnas -- they do everything to prepare for the holidays coming up. They just had that a couple weeks ago, so they got all the food and cookies ready for Christmas Day.
We always went to my aunt's house for Christmas Eve. It's like an Italian tradition called the 'Feast of the Seven Fishes.' It's a Roman-Catholic tradition, and the tradition is you don't eat meat during certain times of the year. Christmas being one of those days where you're not supposed to consume any meat or animal fats, we do the 'Feast of the Seven Fishes' on Christmas Eve with sea bass, calamari, octopus -- everything. And then Christmas Day, we do our normal gifts and breakfast in the morning with our family and we usually head over to my aunt's house again. We'll meet up with the rest of the family and do another marathon of eating all day long. Big food holiday for the Italians.
MLB.com: Have you ever had a white Christmas?
Musgrove: No, I haven't. Never been able to experience snow on Christmas, but last year I was able to take my family up to Mammoth Lakes, [Calif.,] for a week for my dad's birthday, and it was right around December, so we got to see some snow up there. That was the closest thing we got to a white Christmas. San Diego, it's all beaches and sunshine on Christmas Day, so usually we go down and walk on the beach on Christmas morning and try to get a little workout in or something before we go feast.
MLB.com: Was there a particular non-baseball gift you received while growing up that you fondly remember?

Musgrove: My favorite gift was my Italian horn [when he was 14], and I still wear it to this day. It's a gold chain with a gold pendant that has an Italian horn on it. It's a tradition in the Italian community that this horn is supposed to protect you from the evil eye. It's something to protect you from people giving you bad juju and putting their curse on you. That's something that has to be given to you by a family member, someone very close to you. It's not something you can go out and buy for yourself or give to yourself. It has to be given to you by a family member, and my dad had one, my mom had one growing up and I always wanted one of my own really bad, and I'll never forget when I got my horn and my chain. I haven't taken it off to this day.
MLB.com: How about baseball gifts? Did you receive a lot of baseball equipment for Christmas?
Musgrove: That was my holidays. Christmas was all about getting new gloves and new bats growing up. My dad [Mark] and my mom [Diane] always did whatever they could to make sure they had enough money to buy me some of the nicest gear around. Another thing was my dad teaching me how to take care of it all and make sure it lasted me so I wouldn't need another one until the following year. Christmas was a big sports holiday for us. I got gloves, bats -- any kind of gear you can name it, I got it.
MLB.com: Now that the Astros have won the World Series, are you giving out a lot of championship gear this year?
Musgrove: Not a ton, but I can't tell you how much stuff I've been asked to sign or been told that people bought jerseys for family members for Christmas and they're sending them to me to have them signed. It's really cool, man, to see even out in San Diego all the people that have gotten on board with the Astros and followed us this year and had a blast watching us. I'm giving out a few World Series gifts, but I try not to do too many.
MLB.com: What are you asking for for Christmas this year?
Musgrove: I don't have really a whole lot to ask for besides health and happiness, really. I get to see my family and spend the holiday with them. I only get to see them a couple of months out of the year, so it's really a special time for us. And I have a new niece in the family and this will be her first Christmas with us. I'm just really excited to see everybody and share some special time with them.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.