MIAMI -- Spending so much time away makes Christian Yelich appreciate being home for the holidays.
Life in the big leagues requires so much personal sacrifice, and players are constantly on the go, whether they are playing games at home or on the road. Essentially, teammates become family.
For Yelich, the opportunity to be with his actual family during the holiday season is a welcome break. And Christmas, followed by New Years, is a reminder that Spring Training is less than two months away.
"As a baseball player, you're gone so much," Yelich said. "There really is no down time. You're always on the road. Really, your family becomes the guys on your team. The guys you are around every day. When you get to come home at the holidays, and you're around your actual family, it's special. It's something you really enjoy."
Yelich, the Marlins rookie left fielder, is savoring every minute of being at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
It's been a hectic 2013 for Yelich, who turned 22 on Dec. 5. The left-handed hitter opened 2013 as one of the top prospects in the Majors. His season started off at Double-A Jacksonville, before he was promoted to the big leagues in late July, and he became the everyday left fielder.
Yelich is enjoying a relaxing offseason, and like Thanksgiving, family is expected to visit on Christmas.
"For Thanksgiving, we had people over, we ate a big dinner, hung out and watched football," Yelich said. "I'm sure Christmas will be along the same lines. Christmas is one of those days you hang out with friends and family and you really enjoy it."
Low-key by nature, Yelich anticipates more of the same this holiday season. Before getting into the swing of baseball again, the California native shared some of his Christmas memories with MLB.com.
MLB.com: Where do you usually spend Christmas -- at home or away with family?
Yelich: We switch it up. Sometimes we go down and see family in the L.A. area. This year, we're staying home. Personally, I like staying home. You just get to chill. Plus, I have a tradition of doing all my Christmas shopping at the very last second. I cram the last couple of days. That's not much of a tradition, but that's what I'm used to."
MLB.com: Is Christmas even more special this year for you because of the fact your brother is enlisting in the Marines?
Yelich: My youngest brother, Cameron, is joining the Marine Corps after high school. He's got to graduate first, but he will be joining in June or July, something like that. He will be here for Christmas. I don't know about next year, but he will be here this year, which is cool.
MLB.com: As a kid playing baseball year-round, did you compete in various baseball tournaments that kept you away this time of year?
Yelich: We were always in tournaments. Thanksgiving Day tournaments, and Labor Day tournaments. There were also Christmas tournaments during the break from school. I was usually at some tournament. One of my favorite baseball memories was playing in baseball tournaments, just being out there with your buddies. We would be playing all over the place, and tournaments were some of my favorite times.
MLB.com: So Christmas time was also a time for baseball, and your mom probably drove you all over the place?
Yelich: We did a lot of traveling. I liked it, and my mom liked going places. It was definitely a good time.
MLB.com: When it came to decorating your house, and putting up the tree, did you do your part?
Yelich: We'd usually put the tree up sometime after Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving weekend. We'd definitely have it up by Dec. 1. This year we went with a fake tree. I'm not a huge fan of that. But that's what everyone wanted. I personally like the real trees. I am extremely lazy when it comes to decorating the tree. I may help put some lights up on the house. The whole decorating the tree, I've helped a couple of times, but definitely not this year, I must admit.
MLB.com: How about traditional meals? Is there something that is always on the table on Christmas Day?
Yelich: There is nothing that automatically must be on the table. Usually, it is a ham or something like that. Even if it is not on Christmas Day, I feel you have to have ham at some point, don't you think?
MLB.com: What about Christmas cookies, do you get your fill each year?
Yelich: You've got to have those, that's a part of it. I like all the cookies. I don't have any particular favorite one. I'm not too picky when it comes to that. I remember doing all that stuff, leaving cookies out for Santa and all of that on Christmas Eve.
And you can't forget about the reindeer. You'd leave carrots or something for the reindeer. They're grinding it out also.
MLB.com: Do you watch the Christmas and holiday specials on TV?
Yelich: I didn't watch all of the TV shows, but I do like the Grinch. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is one of my favorite movies. I like both, the cartoon, and the Jim Carrey movie. That movie was awesome. I remember going to see that with my friends one year on my birthday. We all went to see the Grinch.
MLB.com: How about your spirit of giving? Was there any special gift you remember giving to anyone?
Yelich: Not really anything big. But I would try to get people what they really wanted. I can't remember anything in particular. What I liked was to see when they got something they did want, how they reacted. That was really special.
MLB.com: Growing up, do you remember getting any special Christmas gift or present?
Yelich: We got an air hockey table one year. That was about the coolest thing ever. For hours, I would be playing air hockey with my brothers, and everyone.
And as a baseball player, I'd usually ask for baseball stuff.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro.