Christmas Day has come and gone, giving fans a chance to say what so many major league free agents get to around this time of year: “I got mine!” The spirit of the holiday season amounts to much more than mere goodies, of course. But if you’re a baseball fan hungry for baseball-related entertainments to escape from a wintry December wherever you may be, short of jumping on a plane to catch winter ball action south of the border, you may have to satisfy yourself with mere things, and if you’re a lucky fan, your friends and loved ones spoiled you.
For myself, it was a lighter load of baseball-related goodies, just two books. Usually I’m asking for or can anticipate some Oakland Athletics-related garb for home use, and sometimes I’ll receive something extraneous like another unusual baseball to add to my collection; I’m still delighted by the Elvis baseball I snagged at Graceland last year, for example.
But as far as what I have to enjoy for the time being, first up was one brother giving me a copy of Terry Francona’s "Francona: The Red Sox Years." During the hurly-burly of spring, with stories to write and work to do, I had settled for reading the excerpts, knowing that I wouldn’t really have the time to read it from beginning to end and enjoying it. Now I do, so I’m looking forward to reading Tito’s reflections. I’ll be especially interested to see what he has to say about his growth as a skipper from his days with the Phillies; much like managers ranging from Whitey Herzog to Joe Torre, Francona isn’t the first and won’t be the last manager to get better with age or in his second incarnation.
The other baseball book I received was an example of Dad seizing the initiative, ignoring my other brother’s advice and boldly ignoring my Amazon wish list: He found something cool, thought I might like it, and just went out and sent it to me. The nerve! Except that it looks like, now as ever, a case of scoring one for Dad -- he sent me Steve Rushin’s "The 34-Ton Bat: The Story of Baseball as Told Through Bobble Heads, Cracker Jacks, Jock Straps, Eye Black & 375 Other Strange & Unforgettable Objects." Which looks like … OK, skipping the Gene Shalit-style “34 tons of fun!” comment, it looks like it’ll be an entertaining read. Since it’s something I probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own, it’s that much more thoughtful. Parents, they’re sneaky that way.
Naturally, as a fan and a conspicuous consumer, I want more, and not merely for myself. The A’s are a DH away from wrapping up a busy offseason after all, and that part of me that still allows myself to root for the team I followed as a kid wait with bated breath for whatever Billy Beane, Dave Forst and friends conjure up on that score. (Luke Gregerson? Delightful. Trading away Michael Choice to Texas for a fourth outfielder? That didn’t make me feel quite so joyful and triumphant.) But as far as my own shopping in the weeks and months to come, there’s Craig R. Wright’s "Pages from Baseball’s Past" to pick up on the recommendation of several friends, Jonah Keri’s epic Expos expose "Up, Up, and Away" to anticipate, and the re-release of Stuart Shea’s "Wrigley Field: The Long Life & Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines" to look forward to. Here as elsewhere, so much about loving the game is about anticipation of the good things yet to come. I hope everyone got something they’re enjoying today, as well as relishing the spirit in which it was given to you.
Christina Kahrl covers baseball for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter.