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12/24/08 10:00 AM EST

Shell excited for holidays, new child

Expecting father will know if baby's a girl or boy after Christmas

Reliever Steven Shell received an early Christmas present on June 22, 2008. After seven-plus years in the Minors, Shell was called up to the big leagues and took advantage of the situation. In 39 games, Shell had a 2.16 ERA for the Nationals.

Shell's good fortune doesn't stop there. He learned last September that he is going to be a father, and the baby is due in May.

MLB.com caught up with Shell recently to talk about what Christmas means to him and how thankful he is to be a ballplayer and a family man.

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 does Christmas mean to you?

Shell: It's Jesus' birthday. That's the most meaningful thing about Christmas. You gather with your family to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

MLB.com: Do you remember the best Christmas you ever had?

Shell: All of them were good. Christmas is my favorite holiday, so I looked forward to it a lot. When I was younger, I used to wake up Christmas morning and go to my grandmother's house after we opened up gifts from Santa Claus. All of them are pretty special for me.

MLB.com: What was it like going to your grandmother's house?

Shell: It was pretty fun. We would go to my grandmother's house on my dad's side. We would get to open up more gifts and we got to eat -- do all kinds of things like that. We always had turkey, ham, macaroni, mashed potatoes and rolls. It was the same thing every year. It was always the best. My grandmother could cook the best.

MLB.com: Obviously, you will be spending Christmas with your wife, Kenna. What is it like being with her for Christmas?

Shell: I've been married two years. It's going to be a special Christmas this year because she is pregnant. We are looking forward to having the baby. We are going to spend a lot of time with both sides of the family. It will really be a good Christmas. Right after Christmas, we get to find if we are having a boy or girl. It's going to be cool to have something to look forward to. The baby is due in May.

MLB.com: You must have been pleasantly surprised when you found out that Kenna was pregnant.

Shell: I was. We were planning to have a kid. While we were in D.C. last September, my wife took me out to eat. She got me a present and it was a father-to-be book. It just so happens that right after Christmas, we get to find out what it is. It will be pretty cool.

MLB.com: What was your favorite Christmas present as a kid?

Shell: My parents bought me this catcher's equipment. They got me shin guards, chest protector, a face mask and a catcher's glove. I wanted to be a catcher. I was 8 years old when I got the catcher's equipment. I put on all that equipment and I made my dad throw to me. He pitched to me in the yard. That was my favorite gift.

I also got a three-wheeler for Christmas and I liked that, too. It was one of those fancy three-wheelers that is outlawed. I ran it up a chain-link fence and it flipped over. I didn't have it very long. It was sold.

MLB.com: You received an early Christmas present this year. You finally made it to the big leagues.

Shell: It was a blessing because I spent so many years in the Minor Leagues. I look at it as the best Christmas present. I went out there and the guys made plays for me.

MLB.com: You ended up having a good year.

Shell: I'm really happy, but I have to give it up to my teammates. I don't know how many times Willie Harris was diving for a ball or Ryan Zimmerman was making a great play at third. It's a team effort. I'm really happy with my season and how well the guys played behind me.

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