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12/24/08 10:00 AM EST

Bruney sees Christmas in new light

Yanks reliever discovers holiday spirit from his 2-year-old daughter

NEW YORK -- On Brian Bruney's Christmas tree, the heaviest concentration of ornaments is centered about two feet from the floor. It might not be the most common way of decorating, but it certainly is the most special.

For Bruney and his wife, Stacey, the holidays around their Alabama home have become a time to cherish. With a 2-year-old daughter, Shelby, taking on the responsibility of deciding where every ornament should go, those areas within reach have naturally received the most attention.

The season spirit was not always this plentiful -- as Bruney joked, his wife used to call him the Grinch when he'd balk at putting up the tree or stringing lights around the house.

Holiday Q&A width=
ARI: Conor Jackson
ATL: Blaine Boyer
BAL: Jeremy Guthrie
BOS: M. Delcarmen
CHC: Kevin Gregg
CWS: John Danks
CIN: Jay Bruce
CLE: Ryan Garko
COL: Clint Barmes
DET: Nate Robertson
FLA: Josh Johnson
HOU: Chris Sampson
KC: Trey Hillman
LAA: Ron Roenicke
LAD: Andre Ethier
MIL: Seth McClung
MIN: Joe Nathan
NYM: Mike Pelfrey
NYY: Brian Bruney
OAK: J. Duchscherer
PHI: Jimmy Rollins
PIT: Frank Coonelly
SD: Chase Headley
SF: Sergio Romo
SEA: Don Wakamatsu
STL: John Roney
TB: Grant Balfour
TEX: Ian Kinsler
TOR: Rod Barajas
WAS: Steven Shell

But that has all changed with Shelby, as the Bruneys hope to make this and every Christmas a happy one for their budding family.

Recently, the Yankees reliever shared some of his Christmas experiences in an interview with MLB.com.

MLB.com: What does the holiday spirit mean for you and your family?

Bruney: Well, we have such a great job as ballplayers, and our sport allows us to be with our families when everybody should be together. We're home with our families and with everybody together. When you live away from home, I may see my parents three times a year and my brothers maybe once a year. It gives us a great time to go home and spend a couple of weeks with everybody and catch up on things.

MLB.com: What are some of your favorite moments during this time?

Bruney: It's the little things that you cherish -- having Christmas dinner and opening up presents and watching the little ones on Christmas Eve. As you get older, you appreciate things more, and that's definitely one of the things that you appreciate.

MLB.com: Do you think that's changed for you because you've started a family of your own?

Bruney: Most definitely. My wife used to call me the Grinch, because I wasn't into decorating the tree or putting lights on the house and things like that. Now that I've got a 2-year-old daughter, she goes and decorates the tree, but all of the ornaments are two feet high.

It's fun getting to watch them experience everything for the first time. She's into presents and loves tearing them open and decorating the tree and cooking with her mom, things like that. It's nice to go home and everybody gets to see her. They see her less than they see me, so it's definitely nice to go home and let everyone share the joy with you.

MLB.com: What are your favorite memories that you have of growing up at Christmas?

Bruney: We always had the Christmas Eve where you got to open up one present. That was always my favorite thing to do. I'll be honest with you, and my mom probably knows about this by now. But I'd go in really late and open things up, and whatever I wanted, I'd feel what presents I had.

That way, on Christmas Eve, if there was one I really wanted to open up, I knew where it was at. That was probably my favorite moment, going in and opening that one present on Christmas Eve.

MLB.com: What was the best gift you ever received?

Bruney: It's hard to put a gift on it. I would say my daughter is probably the most important thing to me. I know it's not a gift and it sounds kind of cheesy, but that was the best gift that I could ever get. It's her.

MLB.com: Is there any gift you're hoping some of your teammates will be opening up this holiday season?

Bruney: I just got two Christmas presents in CC (Sabathia) and A.J. (Burnett), and I'm hoping for more. I think Cash (GM Brian Cashman) and the Steinbrenner family have done an excellent job of giving us all great Christmas presents. We're pretty lucky to have an organization behind us that believes in us and lets us go out and do those things.

Those were on my Christmas list. ... I was asking Santa for CC and A.J.; so far, I've gotten my presents. I don't know what else they have in mind, but I've talked to so many people on the team and we're all very excited about it.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.