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12/24/08 10:00 AM EST

Balfour spending holiday Down Under

Rays reliever has fond memories of Christmas in Australia

ST. PETERSBURG -- Grant Balfour came into his own in 2008, evolving into a force in the Rays' bullpen.

The 30-year-old Australian had one of the best seasons of any reliever in baseball, leading the Major Leagues in several categories and setting career highs in virtually every pitching category.

Balfour led all Rays relievers in ERA, opposing batting average, wins (tied) and strikeouts per nine innings. From the time he joined the club on May 30 after a stint at Triple-A Durham, he led the Rays' bullpen in appearances, innings and wins.

Since the Rays' season ended, Balfour got engaged, and he plans to spend Christmas in Sydney, Australia. He recently talked to MLB.com and shared some of his Christmas experiences.

Holiday Q&A width=
ARI: Conor Jackson
ATL: Blaine Boyer
BAL: Jeremy Guthrie
BOS: M. Delcarmen
CHC: Kevin Gregg
CWS: John Danks
CIN: Jay Bruce
CLE: Ryan Garko
COL: Clint Barmes
DET: Nate Robertson
FLA: Josh Johnson
HOU: Chris Sampson
KC: Trey Hillman
LAA: Ron Roenicke
LAD: Andre Ethier
MIL: Seth McClung
MIN: Joe Nathan
NYM: Mike Pelfrey
NYY: Brian Bruney
OAK: J. Duchscherer
PHI: Jimmy Rollins
PIT: Frank Coonelly
SD: Chase Headley
SF: Sergio Romo
SEA: Don Wakamatsu
STL: John Roney
TB: Grant Balfour
TEX: Ian Kinsler
TOR: Rod Barajas
WAS: Steven Shell

MLB.com: What is a typical Christmas morning like for the Balfour family?

Balfour: Well, a typical Christmas morning was waking up early and heading downstairs to find whatever has been left under the tree for me. I would then call my grandparents and tell them to come around so that we could open presents. Once they showed up, we began opening up gifts. We would follow by having a Christmas lunch, which would usually be pork, turkey and ham with baked potatoes, pumpkin pie and veggies.

MLB.com: When you were growing up, what were your holidays like?

Balfour: Christmas was a great time for holidays as far as time off from school. We got about six weeks off; this was the longest holiday break for us the whole year since it was our summer holidays. I would spend time when I was a lot younger down the coast at our holiday home near the beach. We used to go down there a lot, and it was a great time spent on the water, a lot of memories.

MLB.com: Did you have anything special set for Christmas Eve?

Balfour: Christmas Eve was spent celebrating my dad's birthday as it is Dec. 24. It was a good time for him, presents two days in a row.

MLB.com: Looking back, were there any favorite gifts that really stood out when you were a kid?

Balfour: Yeah, I think my first bike. I have a photo and my face just lit up when I saw it.

MLB.com: What were some of the things you'd watch on TV around the holidays?

Balfour: Growing up, I would watch the Christmas movies. They were always good to get you into the Christmas spirit.

MLB.com: Do you have any favorite Christmas or holiday music?

Balfour: "Jingle Bells."

MLB.com: Talk about when you'd go to your grandparents' houses during Christmas. Did they prepare any traditional meals?

Balfour: As I mentioned, my grandparents came to us. It was the cooking from your mother or grandmother that made it special. You grow up liking mom's home cooking. She always did a good job on the Christmas dinner. My favorite was Christmas pudding with brandy custard.

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