Holidays offer Betances time to reflect on a big 2014

Yanks' breakout reliever talks Christmas and more in special Q&A

Holidays offer Betances time to reflect on a big 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, arguably no player on the Yankees' roster can look back with more satisfaction than Dellin Betances. The right-hander pitched his way onto the roster with a strong spring and enjoyed a dominant season out of the bullpen. He shattered Mariano Rivera's 1996 franchise record for strikeouts by a reliever and earned his first All-Star selection.

The Yankees plan to trust Betances with even more opportunities next season, including a possible crack at the closer's role. But he has his eyes set upon an even bigger prize. recently joined Betances at Yankee Stadium, where he was handing out toys to local children as part of the annual Bronx Winter Wonderland event, to talk about the holiday season and more: What does the spirit of the holiday season mean to you?

Betances: For me, it's just any opportunity you get to give back to the community. I think that's special. I remember, as a little kid, I always looked forward to Christmas and opening some of those gifts. Now, I have to give a lot of the gifts out. It's always good to put smiles on these kids' faces. What was Christmas like in your home growing up?

Betances: We always got together; our family always [got] together for Christmas Eve and we would wait until midnight to open the gifts up. The last couple of years, it has changed a little bit -- where we will just do it on Christmas Day. Usually, we do it on Christmas Eve at midnight. You grew up in New York City. How would you describe what a Christmas in the city is like?

Betances: I've gone to see the big tree at Rockefeller Center before, obviously, they always put it up early. We've gone to see that. For me, it's just a joyful time [full of] happiness. You get together with family -- and for me, it's all about the kids being able to receive some of the gifts and just see the reaction they get when they open [them]. What kinds of things do you remember putting on your list as a kid?

Betances: I was always a big video-game guy. Anytime I got any video game -- or anything for that matter -- I was always excited for that. I'm a big sports guy, so I'd love to get "MLB: The Show;" before that, it was "MVP Baseball." I remember asking for "Mortal Kombat" and "Street Fighter" when I was younger. Those games would excite me. ... I always liked opening a box of shoes. I remember my father used to get me Air Jordans or Vince Carters. Things like that were always exciting to open up. How about a meaningful gift that you gave? Is there one that sticks out in your mind?

Betances: Well, last year I got engaged on Christmas (to Janisa; they were married on Nov. 29). That's a pretty good gift. That's one that I would remember. It was just about getting the family together for her and doing it in front of everybody. I thought it was a good idea to do it in front of her family, and she loved it. What's on your TV around the holidays? Is there a favorite movie or special that you always watch?

Betances: "Home Alone II," the one that is in Central Park. It'll be on TV, and I'll always watch it. I just like all the parts where [Kevin McCallister is] playing tricks with the guys and stuff. The part at the end with all the pigeons and he's running around with the two bad guys; that's my favorite part. How has your view of the holidays changed from when you were a kid?

Betances: For me, it's just about coming here to some of these communities and giving out gifts myself. When I was younger, I always was on the receiving end and loved opening gifts. But now, I'm the one that's giving back. I love this. I love putting smiles on some of these kids' faces. Now that 2014 is almost complete, have you taken a step back to appreciate this year on a personal level?

Betances: Definitely, I think it opened up opportunities. I think that having the year I've had, I've gotten to do more stuff -- and at the end of the day, that's the best part of it. I'm living every kid's dream. Growing up a Yankees fan and playing for them, they're the best team and the best franchise for me. I'm definitely excited to be wearing pinstripes. Pitchers and catchers will be here before you know it. What do you hope that Santa leaves under the tree for the Yankees next year?

Betances: For us, it's about being healthy. I think if we get all the guys that were hurt last year, I think we'll be all right. I believe in our team. It's getting back to the playoffs, but it's always winning the World Series. I want to know what it feels like to win a World Series.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.