Danks discusses holidays in Texas
Lefty's tightly knit family has several Christmas traditions
Before John Danks agreed to be the subject of the 2008 WhiteSox.com Holiday Q&A, the talented young hurler was advised of the problems that possibly could follow. Judging by misfortune suffered by the subjects from the recent past, let's call it, "The Curse of the Q&A."
Of the three previous White Sox players interviewed in this light-hearted look at the holidays, one struggled on the field during the season coming immediately after his Q&A ran and another battled through injuries that severely hampered his production during the ensuing season. As for the third player ...?
He was traded out of Chicago before his answers were delivered.
Yet anyone who watched the 23-year-old southpaw consistently pitch to his level of excellence during the 2008 campaign, resulting in a 12-9 record and 3.32 ERA, quickly realizes that Danks shows no fear even at the most pressure-packed points of competition. Taking on a few questions about gift-giving, traditions of his tight-knit family and spending the holidays in a warm-weather climate such as Austin, Texas, should be no problem for the affable Danks.
At least, that's what he hopes.
MLB.com: Before you started this interview, I mentioned the rough years that followed for the three previous White Sox subjects of the MLB.com Holiday Q&A. Are you worried about bad luck to come on the field after this interview? In fairness, Ozzie Guillen did this interview in 2003, and things turned out fine for him.
Danks: I wouldn't quite call it the Madden curse. But it's something I need to keep an eye on.
MLB.com: Living in Texas your entire life, you probably have a slightly different perspective on the holidays -- at least weather-wise. It's probably hard for you to relate to dreaming of a white Christmas.
Danks: Actually, it's a lot more common to wear shorts and a T-shirt around Christmas time. Growing up, we usually stayed at home for the holidays, but we knew it was snowing up North. Songs like "White Christmas" and having snow on the ground just didn't apply here.
MLB.com: So, it's still pretty warm in Texas around the holidays?
Danks: Yeah, it is. We'll get a couple of days where it gets cold and have a flurry here and there. When that happens, the whole city freaks out. Usually, it's sunny and clear and warm.
MLB.com: Can you remember any snowy or cold weather around the holidays?
Danks: We might get a freeze overnight, and usually one day out of the offseason, school will close with black ice on the road. You see kids grab trash can lids and run around the neighborhood like we got a foot of snow overnight. There will be ice down the driveway, and the kids will be on those garbage lids, sliding into the street and whatnot. They are not used to that sort of climate.
I was just talking to a buddy who lives in Syracuse, N.Y., and he said they had so many inches of snow yesterday that all the plows and salt trucks are out. I've never once seen a snow plow or salt truck.
MLB.com: Not even at SoxFest last January?
Danks: I did my best to stay warm and stay inside [the hotel] last year. Maybe I'll get out and brave the cold for five minutes this time around.
MLB.com: Talk about some of the holiday customs for the Danks family.
Danks: We really don't ever travel around Christmastime. We go to the Christmas Eve service together and do the whole church thing. Then, we go eat and go over to the house of family friends for an hour or whatnot.
Presents get opened on Christmas Day morning. We eat breakfast and have people over later that night for dessert. For the rest of the day, there's not a whole lot going on. We enjoy each other's company and relax.
MLB.com: Can you think of one particular favorite holiday memory?
Danks: Really, it isn't any one thing I remember. I know in watching home videos, when my brother and I were young, and I'm not sure if my sister was born yet, I was the big, brave older brother and Jordan was the little kid scared of Santa Claus. He was not going to come within 100 feet of him. There are videos of me taking a big leap and sitting on Santa's lap at the mall, and Jordan is crying off to the side, with his balloon.
We also watch [National Lampoon's] Christmas Vacation all the time. We keep it within the family. It has been well-documented we are a close-knit family, and we take it to new levels during Christmas.
MLB.com: I'm sure that particular mall Santa appreciated you taking a running start and leaping into his lap.
Danks: I didn't brace my fall at all. I remember I had a big list drawn up, and I had, like, 35 things for Santa to bring me. Jordan and I would spend a lot of time putting together that list.
MLB.com: I'm assuming Jordan got over his fear of Santa.
Danks: Yeah, Jordan is over that fear of Santa now. Jordan used to be afraid of the water. He didn't like the pool. Now, he's a fish, the fastest swimmer in the family. He's the opposite of what he used to be.
MLB.com: Both you and Jordan play in the White Sox organization, and your sister, Emily, will be a freshman volleyball player at Ohio State next year. There has to be some sort of athletic activity that takes place involving the Danks family during the holidays.
Danks: Basketball is always something we do. We try to make games with volleyball for Emily, and we are always throwing the football around. Recently, it has been a game very similar to bags we've been playing, called washers. You take industrial-sized washers and try to throw them into the can buried on the ground. We are always doing something, competing. We pull out the golf clubs and also hit Whiffle balls. We are always playing a game of some sort.
MLB.com: What's the best holiday gift you can remember receiving?
Danks: The regular Nintendo. I remember the day I got it. It was really something, because we never had a video game system. We would stay up all night playing Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt. I remember getting mad when the dog in that game would laugh at me for missing ducks.
MLB.com: Name the best gift you have ever given.
Danks: My family turned my old bedroom into a theater room, a sort of movie-watching room. So, I bought the TV for that room and had it mounted on the wall and got HD set up.
That's kind of where my family watches all my games in the summer and movies are watched in there. It's a very popular room.
MLB.com: Since you have picked up more than a little extra money as an established Major Leaguer, does that fact make a difference in your gift-giving?
Danks: Now I feel like instead of going and spending $10 on my sister when I was in high school, I can spend more and really get her what she wants. I'm not buying anyone a car or anything like that. My mom says I'm the toughest to shop for, and the biggest problem now is what to get for me. I usually just ask for clothes.
I'm not a mall fan. I don't enjoy it, and I do my best to stay out of them. I bought three gifts at a mall the other day in [less than] 10 minutes. I knew what I wanted and got in and got out.
MLB.com: Let's do our traditional gift-giving to your other family, the White Sox. As an opener, what would you give to third baseman Josh Fields?
Danks: A digital scale. He's always worried about his weight and eating right. Living with him [and Fields' wife, Ashleigh, during Spring Training], I just wanted to go out and grab a Taco Bell. He's always worried about eating right, and when he can have that big meal.
MLB.com: Although I never saw any pictures, from his Q&A comments last year, Fields seems to be the king of Christmas lights. What's the lights status of your house?
Danks: Mine isn't overly tacky. My friends wrapped one of my columns with lights and I had a buddy staple lights all over the roof of my house. I have a couple of bushes that have lights in them. It looks nice, not slopped up. But I wouldn't have done this much myself.
MLB.com: OK, back to the gifts. How about pitching coach Don Cooper?
Danks: A rulebook for our card games. His rules seem to change every day we play.
MLB.com: How about Mark Buehrle, your mentor?
Danks: It's hard to buy something for someone who can go out and buy whatever he wants. That's a tough one.
MLB.com: What would you get for Guillen, the man in charge?
Danks: I'd buy him a new wardrobe. Those loud T-shirts aren't my style, all the Ed Hardy stuff.
MLB.com: Let's move to a couple of bullpen guys. First, closer Bobby Jenks.
Danks: I would get him some soft clothes hangers, padded hangers, so when he throws them at me, it doesn't hurt as bad.
MLB.com: And Matt Thornton?
Danks: A beach towel to wipe his tears from being dominated in Xbox.
MLB.com: Now, finally, your brother.
Danks: Well, I already got Jordan a gift. But if I had to get him something else, it would be neck pillows for the long bus rides he's going to be taking next year in the Minors.
MLB.com: Actually, there's one more gift to be covered. What would you give to your beloved University of Texas football team?
Danks: I hope Oklahoma and Florida both lose [playing against each other in the BCS title game], and I want the Longhorns to win [over Ohio State] by 40. I'm really stuck. Usually, I pull for the Big 12 teams in bowl games. But it's hard to root for Oklahoma, since we got the short end of the stick this year.
MLB.com: We have one final tradition with this particular Q&A. Spell Hanukah.
Danks: H-a-n-u-k-a-h. Is that right?
MLB.com: It certainly qualifies as one of the correct spellings. Good luck in 2009. You might need it after today.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.