Gonzalez enjoys Cuban, American traditions

Gonzalez enjoys Cuban, American traditions

Gonzalez enjoys Cuban, American traditions
ATLANTA -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is looking forward to the opportunity to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season with friends and family at his suburban Atlanta home. Born in Cuba and raised in Miami, Gonzalez has continued to recognize some Cuban holiday traditions.

Gonzalez recently spoke to MLB.com about a few of these traditions and some of his favorite things to do around the holiday season.

MLB.com: What are some of your favorite holiday memories?

Gonzalez: My wife, Pam, was born and raised here in the United States. I have a lot of great memories of when we started together with both of our families. The Cuban culture or Spanish culture, most celebrate on Dec. 24. That's when everybody got together, and there was usually pork involved. You'd put pork in the ground or the oven, have black beans and rice and some other favorite foods.

Then when Christmas arrived, we'd spend it with Pam's family. So we'd have 48 hours of serious eating and spending time with family. It was food intoxication. We'd have the pork and black beans and rice. Pam's mom would have the ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and that kind of stuff. It was great to be able to enjoy both Christmas cultures.

MLB.com: Since moving from Miami to Atlanta in 2004, have you continued to recognize some of the Cuban traditions?

Gonzalez: When my family comes to Atlanta -- my parents or brother or sister -- we celebrate on the 24th. We've got all that we need, other than we don't cook the pig in the ground. When we do it here, we just get a pork shoulder from Publix and my mom cooks it in the oven.

There are different methods to "putting it in the ground." You can put the pig in this aluminum box, bury it in the ground, put coals over it and it's unbelievable.

MLB.com: Are there any other Cuban traditions that you vividly remember from your days in Miami?

Gonzalez: We always observed the Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, in early January every year. There has always been a big parade to celebrate this in Miami.

MLB.com: Is there a gift or Christmas memory that stands out more than any other?

Gonzalez: I think the first Christmas you spend with your own child stands out more than any other. I had one of those old VHS cameras that made it look like you had a suitcase on your hand. I was using that to capture every moment and every gift she unwrapped that Christmas. That's something special.

Now that they're older, it's like, "Hey, dad, get me a few gift cards and I'll take care of myself." You miss the days when they were younger.

MLB.com Your son, Alex, went to college for the first time this year. This is going to mark the first year that he and his sister, Gigi, have both returned from school for the holidays. Is this time of year a little different now that they are young adults?

Gonzalez: Now that they are a little older, they want to spend more time giving and doing stuff for other people. They'd rather do that than get gifts. That makes me feel good, because how many pairs of jeans or video games can you get? That really makes me proud.

MLB.com: Do you have a favorite Christmas movie or book?

Gonzalez: All of the old ones like "Miracle on 34th Street" seem to make me cry. They're all tearjerkers, every single one of them. I really came to like "The Polar Express" after I read it to a fourth-grade class in Miami back when I was managing Class A ball for the Marlins. I came home and told my wife that we had to get the book for Gigi, who was about 5 years old at the time. They made the movie out of it not long after that.

MLB.com: Will you spend some time with Bobby Cox over the next couple weeks?

Gonzalez: Yeah, Roger McDowell's family and my family spent some time with Bobby last week. I'm sure we'll get together again over the next week.

MLB.com: What would be the best gift you could give some of the guys within the Braves' organization?

Gonzalez: I think the perfect gift for Chipper Jones, John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox would be a World Series championship. That would be a terrific gift for them and the people of Atlanta. They have waited a long time for a championship of any kind. We're too big of city and too proud not to have had one of those in a long time.

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