Jays' Barajas stays busy at Christmas
As father of six, catcher is in charge of wrapping gifts for family
Rod Barajas is entering his second season as the Blue Jays' starting catcher. During the winter, Barajas happily trades in life behind the plate for a busy life at home with his wife and six children. Barajas recently took a timeout from wrapping a pile of presents to talk about the holiday season with MLB.com.
MLB.com: Did your family have any Christmas traditions when you were young?
Barajas: Growing up, we had our traditions. I came up in a pretty big family. My dad was one of 13 and pretty much all the family lived in L.A. On Christmas Eve, we'd all get together and you'd have 30 adults and 40 kids running around and everybody would bring the presents over and we'd stay up until midnight. We'd wait until that clock struck 12 and it was chaos after that. Everybody would open up their presents.
MLB.com: So having a big family isn't exactly new for you. Are you trying to incorporate some of those traditions you had as a kid into your own family?
Barajas: We did try it. I live in Arizona now and all my family is back in L.A., so we don't have as much family. We do have some family come over, but at the ages that my kids are, they don't make it until midnight. When it gets to about 9:30, everybody is falling asleep on the couch and everybody's out. Now, we just put everybody to bed at a normal time and first thing in the morning, they come wake us up. They bring us out to the tree and we open up the presents and see what Santa Claus brought them.
MLB.com: As the head of the house, are you required to still believe in Santa?
Barajas: Absolutely [laughs]. I've never stopped believing. I can't. I can't afford to not believe now. With all the kids, it's actually great leverage. When they're not listening, you just remind them about Santa Claus and their attitude changes completely. I'm still playing the part. As long as we can, we have our oldest who is 13 and we make sure he plays the part, too. We don't want him spoiling it for the little ones.
MLB.com: Is your 13-year-old the only one who no longer believes in Santa?
Barajas: He's the only one. He bites his tongue and he's been really good about it. From our 7-year-old down, they all still believe and they all make their lists. They still want to make the cookies and set them out by the fireplace and make sure they do everything they can to make Santa Claus happy.
MLB.com: How many of Santa's reindeer can you name?
Barajas: Oh, man. Probably about three? Blitzen. Rudolph. He's one of them, right? He counts?
MLB.com: Sure, we'll let Rudolph count.
Barajas: You know what? I can only name two [laughs].
MLB.com: What's your favorite Christmas song?
Barajas: Probably "Jingle Bell Rock." Once Thanksgiving ends, my wife pops in the CD and she's got Christmas songs going from that Friday until the new year. I hear that song over and over again and it sticks in your head. Plus it reminds me of "Home Alone," which is one of my favorite movies ever.
MLB.com: So, your favorite holiday movie is "Home Alone." Do your kids have a favorite of their own?
Barajas: They just started watching "Home Alone." It was on TV over Thanksgiving break and they absolutely loved it. But they like more of the new ones. They like the "Santa Clause" one with Tim Allen and all the Mickey Mouse ones that come out. They've seen "A Christmas Story," but they're not too into it. That's one I absolutely love.
MLB.com: How good are you at wrapping presents?
Barajas: I'm the one that does all the wrapping. My wife can't handle it. She wants nothing to do with it. So, I wrap the presents and I'm pretty good. With six kids, there are a lot of presents around -- plenty of practice. I do all the wrapping and she puts all the bows on them. I wasn't too good when I started, but I've pretty much turned myself into an above-average present wrapper.
MLB.com: How would your family rate your gift-giving skills?
Barajas: [laughs] Terrible. I'm a bad one. I have no idea what to do. I'll walk into a mall and I can spend two hours there and I won't buy anybody anything -- for other adults at least. For the kids, I'm great. I go overboard with my kids -- I just get them everything. So they'd probably rate me as an A-plus shopper. But, if you ask my wife or my family, I have no clue what to get people. I look at things and I worry too much that it's not what they'll want and I put it back. Then, I've spent hours at the mall with nothing accomplished. In their eyes, I'd say I'm a "D" at best.
MLB.com: Any odd requests on your kids' wish lists this year?
Barajas: The strange one is always the pony. My daughter, she's been asking for a pony for six years now. We still haven't got one, but it's right on top of her list.
MLB.com: Are there a lot of decorations at the Barajas household?
Barajas: Oh, yeah. My wife absolutely loves Christmas time. She goes out there and she does all the lights on the house. She doesn't let me get on the ladder. She says if she falls off, it's OK, but if I fall off, it'd be bad news. So she hangs all the lights, gets the blow-up Mickey Mouse and sets all those up. Inside the house, the tree, the kids love being a part of that. Our house is completely green and red and white. When you walk in, you feel like you're at the North Pole.
MLB.com: Well, I'm sure the Blue Jays appreciate that your wife doesn't make you climb the ladder.
Barajas: Exactly. She tells me I can carry the ladder over to her, but that's as far as it goes.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.