Polar Express highlights Kelly's Christmas

Polar Express highlights Kelly's Christmas

Polar Express highlights Kelly's Christmas
DETROIT -- Don Kelly comes from a family of athletes. His wife Carrie played college basketball, and his sister Ashlee was a standout player at Quinnipiac University. His brother-in-law is Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, and his father-in-law is former Major League pitcher Tom Walker. So it figures that holidays get a little competitive.

"It's just a competitive family," he said. "It's fun, and we play all kinds of games, cards and pool and whatever else we can compete at. It's a lot of fun over the holidays when everybody gets home and we get together.

"The most fun game is we play is 'Catch Phrase.' You get a word and you have to describe the word, but then once you do it, you have to pass it off to the next person, and once the buzzer goes off, you're out. Usually the catch phrase card gets thrown at somebody in the end."

It isn't a difficult travel for the Kellys to do that. Living in Pittsburgh, they only need to drive across town for the holidays, a thankfully short trek for them and their two young boys. The challenge for Don Kelly is when Carrie is out finishing up holiday shopping and he's left to try to keep track of the kids. Even for somebody who has played every position on the field in the big leagues, playing babysitter can a challenge, deciding whether to protect the television set or protect something else, like the kids.

Kelly's 2-year-old son, Brett, was kicking field goals in the basement as dad took a few minutes to talk with MLB.com about holiday traditions.

MLB.com: What is Christmas like for the Kelly family?

Kelly: What we started doing a few years ago is we do Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with Carrie's -- which is nice, because with the kids, it's hard to bundle them up and get them ready to go. We started doing that a little bit ago.

MLB.com: Any big family traditions?

Kelly: You know, now that we've started our own family with the boys, we started one last year where we take them to the Polar Express. There's a train in Akron where they wear the pajamas and they go on the train, and we ride the train to the North Pole. Other than that, I mean, it's just the same thing. Both of our families are here in Pittsburgh, so we'll share days with both of the families.

MLB.com: With so much baseball history in the family, how much does baseball get discussed around the holidays?

Kelly: I don't know. We definitely talk about baseball here and there. This is like the high workout time, so we're really going strong, talking about baseball when we work out. Neil and I, we do all of our baseball stuff together, throwing and hitting, ground balls and everything.

MLB.com: Are you a family that opens gifts Christmas Eve or waits for Christmas Day?

Kelly: No, we're Christmas morning. And Brett's going to turn 3 in February, so this is really the first year he understands Santa.

MLB.com: Does that make this Christmas particularly special for you and Carrie?

Kelly: Yeah, I don't know who's really more excited, Brett or us, for Christmas. We're really looking forward to it, and he is, too. I don't know if you've heard of "Elf on the Shelf," but we've got George around here. I think Brett's been good for Christmas.

MLB.com: What was your favorite Christmas gift as a kid?

Kelly: Yeah, I'll tell you what, I don't know how old I was, but it was back in the early '90s. I wanted a Starter jacket and I got a Buffalo Bills Starter jacket. I loved the Bills, because Jim Kelly was the quarterback. It was kind of weird being from Pittsburgh and the Steelers doing so well and being a Bills fan, but it was because Jim Kelly was from here and we had the same last name.

MLB.com: How much grief did you get for being a Bills fan in Steelers country?

Kelly: You know, not much. I don't know the exact years they were good, but the Steelers were OK, but not great. So I didn't hear about it too much.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.