12/23/2013 10:00 A.M. ET
Holiday season remains special time for Collmenter
D-backs versatile righty dresses as Santa Claus, rings bell for Salvation Army
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Josh Collmenter's versatility and willingness to embrace a variety of roles has made him a key component of the D-backs pitching staff over the past few years
Collmenter has started games when needed and he's saved the bullpen by pitching multiple innings in relief during extra-inning games.
So it should come as no surprise that when the organization needed a player to dress as Santa Claus for its annual Winter Classic, it was Collmenter who donned the outfit. He wore it again the next day to serve as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army.
MLB.com caught up with Collmenter in between his bell-ringing outing and dinner with D-Baxter, the team's mascot, to talk about the holidays.
MLB.com: What was Christmas like in the Collmenter household when you were growing up?
Collmenter: Well, I grew up in church, so the kids in the church would put on a Christmas program, so we would always be rehearsing for that and usually put it on the Sunday before Christmas. I usually ended up being a wise man for the most part. I had two younger brothers so we were usually wise men or shepherds. Never could quite get the part of Joseph for whatever reason.
In school, I remember we got to make the countdown to Christmas paper chains and we would hang those up and all the Christmas ornaments we made when we were in first or second grade. My mom still has them and we put them on the tree.
We always go pick out our own tree and cut it down and had a night when we decorated it.
MLB.com: You went and found your own tree?
Collmenter: Yeah, in Michigan, there are Christmas tree farms all over the place and they take you out and you get to get to pick your own one. We always would find one and then decided it wasn't the right one and go look at 30 or 40 more trees and then we always seemed to come back to the first one we saw.
MLB.com: What else?
Collmenter: We always spent Christmas with my mom's side of the family a couple of days before Christmas and then Christmas Eve with my dad's side of the family, then we would always have Christmas morning with just my brothers and my mom and dad at our house. We would go to my grandma's for a Christmas dinner with turkey and ham. As kids, we would always take the toys we got in the morning over there and play with the cousins and show off the stuff we all got. Now that we're older, we go over there and reminisce and just spend some family time together.
MLB.com: Presents Christmas morning or Christmas Eve?
Collmenter: We would do presents with my family Christmas morning. My parents always would wait to put them out until Christmas Eve, so there was nothing under the tree other than presents for relatives until Christmas morning, when ours would be there. We'd wake up Christmas morning and bam, there were all the presents just like Santa dropped them off while we were sleeping.
MLB.com: Can you remember an all-time favorite Christmas gift?
Collmenter: There were some good ones. We all got roller skates one year, my grandma got them for all of us and the church that we went to had a school and it had a gym inside and it was one of those rubber floors, so you could roller skate on it and not worry about messing it up.
So we opened our presents and we really wanted to roller skate, so we went to the church and roller skated, so that was one of the more memorable ones.
MLB.com: Do you head back to Michigan for Christmas?
Collmenter: Yes, I'm excited for a white Christmas. It's different seeing all the decorations and the lights when it's still 70 degrees out here. It takes a little getting used to as opposed to single digits and snow. But I'll be back the day after Christmas in time for the big Wolverines' bowl game.
MLB.com: Oh that's right, the University of Michigan is playing Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl here in Tempe. You grew up a Wolverines fan instead of a Michigan State fan?
Collmenter: I did. Most of my family were Wolverines. I have an uncle that married in that's a Spartan, but for the most part, our family and most of my friends were Wolverine fans. In Michigan, you kind of decide early on which you are and it's passed on from generation to generation. I think it helped that the Wolverines were the better team when I was growing up.
MLB.com: Are you going to go with J.J. Putz, a Michigan alum?
Collmenter: Yeah, I was actually out hunting with Wade [Miley] and we had just gotten done for the day and they announced the bowl matchups and [Putz] called and asked if I wanted to go. So he said he would pencil me in for a ticket and we would go. I'm excited about getting to go and watch them.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.