PHOENIX -- When it comes to decorating his house with Christmas lights, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo is a man on a mission.
“I try to win the prize every year,” he said before breaking into a smile. “And the funny thing is, there is no prize. Except in my own mind.”
There might not be a prize, but there certainly is a lot of Christmas spirit in the Lovullo household this time of the year.
“I’m from Buffalo, and in Buffalo this time of year, it really feels like Christmas with the winter and the snow, and Torey does his best to help me feel the Christmas spirit here,” Lovullo’s wife, Kristen, said.
The Lovullos have embraced Arizona -- their year-round home ever since Torey was hired as manager in November of 2016.
In the dugout, he has been influenced by such luminaries like former manager and Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson, who he played for with the Tigers.
When it comes to Christmas lights, Lovullo’s role model is more like Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold character from "National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation."
“I want to make our house look as festive as possible,” Lovullo said. “And when people drive by, I want them to know that we have that holiday spirit for sure, on the level that Chevy Chase, did to tell you the truth. It’s a lot of fun. I spend a lot of time out there. I try to hide power cords. I try to make it as pristine as possible.”
When he manages, Lovullo is always looking for ways to make his team better. In his role as chief decorating officer of the house, he does the same thing.
A couple of years ago when the couple was at the Scottsdale Princess Resort, they noticed that the palm trees on the property were wrapped by white lights. That got them to thinking about the set of palm trees they have on their property.
“I just made a mental note that if I could ever figure out a way to get up there, that I was going to do that,” Lovullo said.
This year, he solved that issue by renting an aerial lift. There was still just one problem, though.
“I don’t like heights,” Lovullo said. “Actually, I hate heights, but I was strapped in so it kind of counterbalanced that I was up that high. I think I was up 30 or 40 feet at times. It was rough, but I just kind of blocked out what I was doing and put the bucket right next to the tree and just kept going around and around until I had it the way I wanted it.”
It usually takes Lovullo about three weeks to get all the lights up exactly the way he wants them.
As part of the process, he’ll go into the street when it’s dark and take a picture of the house so he can see where any gaps need to be filled in.
Then, on Dec. 26, you can usually find Lovullo at his local Home Depot, taking advantage of the after-Christmas sale to gather new lights for next year.
“One of the best days of the year for me,” Lovullo said.
Each year, he looks to make improvements, and after he and Kristen recently visited the World of Illumination in nearby Tempe, Ariz., which is billed as the “world’s largest animated drive-through light show,” they came away with a new idea for next year: music.
“We went to World of Illumination last night and we both started thinking, ‘How can we do this?’” Kristen said. “I’d like to have music. My husband is such a good sport because all you have to do is be like, ‘Hey, Torey ... and he’s like, ‘Yeah, great idea.’”