Q&A: Mercer on family ranch, holiday traditions

December 20th, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- During the season, it's hard to keep off the field. He wants to play every day -- literally -- at shortstop for the Pirates in 2017.

But Mercer enjoys the offseason, too. It's a chance to be Kasey's husband and a dad for 4-year-old Maverick and 1-year-old Maddon. And it provides plenty of time to hang out on Mercer Ranch in his native Oklahoma.

While stopping by snow-covered Pittsburgh for an appearance at PirateFest, Mercer set aside some time to chat with MLB.com about his offseason, the Mercer family's holiday traditions and what he might get his Pirates teammates for Christmas.

MLB.com: What is offseason life like on the Mercer Ranch?

Mercer: Oh, man. It's a blast. To be able to get away -- we go from big city to big city -- and enjoy some time and some relaxation, some R&R. One of my offseason hobbies is to go hunt and be outdoors. At the farm, you can do a lot of that stuff. I help dad out with the cows, the cattle. The wheat's already up. Can't do much with the wheat. He's got the wheat planted about the time I get home, but there's always some stuff you can do on the farm. I enjoy being out there, being away. You barely get cell phone service out there. It's really nice. I really enjoy it.

MLB.com: No cell phone service sounds nice.

Mercer: Yeah, you put your cell phone aside. Constantly during the season, you're getting text messages and things like that. At the farm, a lot of that stuff doesn't happen. You can enjoy it.

MLB.com: For those who might be unfamiliar, what's the backstory and family history at the ranch?

Mercer: For as long as I can remember, the farm's been in our family. My grandpa lived on it. My dad didn't grow up there, but he moved there and my grandpa built a house there. He lived there. I can always remember going over there, going to see grandparents. They lived right on the farm. When they passed away, my dad donated their house to the Camp Creek Church. We kept the foundation and built a hunting shack on there; my dad made it really nice. Dad kind of took over the farm when my grandparents passed away. It's kind of what he's always loved to do. He really enjoys it. I love being out there with him.

MLB.com: What is the holiday season like for the Mercer family out there?

Mercer: My boys really love going out there, especially my oldest, Maverick. He can't get enough of the cows. Same thing on my sister's side. She has two boys as well; they can't get enough of the cows, either. "Papa" -- my dad -- he takes the boys out there and runs around and shows them the cows. They love it. That makes him happy, too. Holidays at the Mercer house is just enjoying our family time, getting to spend some time with the cows for the kids. The adults just enjoy the time with each other and with our kids as well.

MLB.com: Do you have any specific holiday traditions from when you were growing up that you passed along?

Mercer: We always went to my grandma's house, I remember that. Christmas Eve, we would always go to our grandparents' house. We have kids now, so we stay home because Santa's going to come to our house. That's how I remember growing up: We always went to my grandma's for Christmas Eve, the pre-party for Christmas day. We'd open presents there, then couldn't wait to get home and go to bed because Santa's going to be there.

MLB.com: How has Christmas changed for you guys since you had kids?

Mercer: It's been awesome. Going through the whole thing -- as soon as Thanksgiving's over, the Christmas lights and the Christmas tree, you name it, it blows kids' minds away. That's what's cool about the whole thing. As parents, you can't wait to put the lights up on the house and you can't wait to put the Christmas tree up because you know your kids are going to be so excited to do it and help you do it, too. My 4-year-old now, he helped decorate the Christmas tree one by one. He might have put them all jumbled up together, but he was a big help. This was the first year we put a tree in his room; he decorated it himself, did everything himself. We didn't touch it. He did a good job, and he's really proud of it.

MLB.com: What's on your list and the kids' list this year?

Mercer: I would like a new Xbox. Mine's starting to get a little old, and there's new ones coming out that are awesome. Maybe Santa will be nice and bring me one of those. My son drives a little electric car, a John Deere tractor, a single-man. But his younger brother is 1 now, and he can't drive with his little brother. Santa's hopefully going to bring him a two-seater electric car where his brother can get in the passenger side and he can drive his brother around.

MLB.com: If you could give your teammates a gift, what would it be?

Mercer: Hopefully everybody would like it: a crossbow. That would be awesome. I have one. I go hunting with them. It shoots about 1,100 feet per second, so it's pretty dangerous -- don't get me wrong, it is. I think some of our teammates would love it. [David] Freese would love it. [Andrew McCutchen] would definitely love it. Cutch and Freese talk about coming to the farm all the time. I'm like, yeah, come on, let's go, anytime. Anybody's welcome at Mercer Ranch -- not media or fans, but players. [laughs] If I got everybody a crossbow, that'd be awesome.