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Family, turkey, football sit atop Kelley's holiday list

Yankees reliever teaching family about Thanksgiving, Christmas

Long after the table had been cleared, the football scores were final and the last scraps of turkey disappeared into sandwiches, Shawn Kelley would gather his schoolbooks and head back to the dorms. He never did so empty-handed.

For the Yankees right-hander, Thanksgiving has long been an important opportunity to spend table time with the family, digging forks into a bird and delightful side items. His favorite dish of all, though, is a fruit salad that was always waiting at his grandmother's home in Louisville, Ky.

"It's got whipped cream and other things in it; it's like a big spread," Kelley said in a recent telephone interview. "It's creamy and thick and it's got cherries and grapes and apples. It's like a smorgasbord of fruit all mixed up, and it's probably the most delicious thing.

"She used to make a whole extra batch for me to take back to college with me after Thanksgiving. That's definitely my favorite of all time."

The 30-year-old Kelley has a deeper appreciation for the holiday season now, with those days of Tupperware containers at Austin Peay State University safely stored in air-tight memories.

Having just completed his sixth big league season, Kelley was busy stringing up Christmas lights earlier this week and is looking forward to spending the holiday in Tennessee with his family.

"It means a lot," Kelley said. "It's a time for friends and family to get together and spend time, and now that I've got two little boys that are getting older, teaching them the meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it's a good family time. I really enjoy it."

Growing up, Kelley recalls looking forward to an afternoon he'd spend with his extended family, digging forks into early dinners filled with stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, macaroni and soft buttery rolls.

"We'd get so stuffed and so full," Kelley said. "Then we'd go outside and throw a football or throw horseshoes, depending on the weather if it was cold or nice. We'd be outside for the day and basically we'd heat the stuff up again and do it again for dinner."

Football is still part of the equation, but Kelley plans on resting his right arm from spiral duty, still a few weeks away from picking up a baseball in preparation for Spring Training. His attention will be more closely focused on Bears at Lions, Eagles at Cowboys and Seahawks at 49ers.

"I tend to just try to eat and watch as much football as possible nowadays," Kelley said. "Now that they usually have two or three games versus when they used to have just one back when I was younger; any chance you can just sit around and do nothing and watch football is a great day."

There will inevitably be some baseball talk during dinner, with family members stoking the Hot Stove and wondering what the Yankees will do between now and the report date for pitchers and catchers. Thus far, there has not been much noise out of the Bronx, but Kelley is not concerned.

"We've basically got the team already in place to do it," he said. "You saw it all last year: a lot of guys just didn't play to their baseball cards, so to speak. It was a disappointing year for the whole team, including myself. I think if we refocus and do what we're capable of doing, nothing more, whether we add a lot or not this offseason I think the pieces are in place to make a run and be a playoff team."

Part of the Yankees' offseason plan includes re-signing closer David Robertson, with whom Kelley has exchanged recent text messages. Kelley ribbed Robertson about turning down the Yankees' $15.3 million qualifying offer and said that Robertson seems to be in no rush to make a move, allowing his market to play out.

"I know he loves New York, I know he's close with Mariano [Rivera] and wants to kind of follow in Mariano's footsteps," Kelley said. "I'm sure there's a big part of him that probably wants to stay in New York, but he's got to do what's best and see what's out there. That's where he's at in his career right now."

Kelley said that he is also looking forward to learning what his own future holds. The non-tender deadline is Dec. 2, and Kelley said that he has been "pretty relaxed" in waiting for the process to play out, assuming that he will be back for a third season with the Yanks in 2015.

"Me personally, I'll be thankful if I sign back with the Yankees and this arbitration process goes smoothly, and I end up pitching for another year in New York and in pinstripes," Kelley said. "Then making a playoff run -- that's what I'll be thankful for."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.
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