Punto gets in the holiday spirit

Twins have their own Secret Santa in Punto

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nick Punto has had quite a year. From earning the Twins' starting spot at third base to helping the club complete its magical run to even getting married, Punto made 2006 a year to remember.

But for now, Punto's thoughts are all geared toward the holiday season. He recently took some time out to talk with MLB.com about his feelings concerning family, Christmas and gifts he might give some of the Twins, if he had the chance.

MLB.com: What is your favorite childhood memory of Christmas?

Punto: It sounds funny, but the one that really sticks out in my mind is when I got this special remote control car. I used to get them every year for Christmas, probably from the age of 5 to the age of 12. But when I was 12, I got the big kid one -- the one that all the teenagers had. It was really fast and really expensive. I couldn't believe my parents actually got it for me. Back then, the excitement was all about presents. But now that I'm older, Christmas to me is just a great time to share with family.

MLB.com: Growing up, what did the phrase "Christmas spirit" mean to you?

Punto: Growing up, my parents taught me that Christmas was about more than just getting presents. We were fortunate to have things and I think my parents were really big on preaching that Christmas is time to give things to people who are needy and don't have things. So from a young age, my parents really taught me and my sister that this was a time for giving, and it definitely is. There are places around the world that aren't as fortunate as people in the United States, so I think it's important that we all remember that.

MLB.com: So if you had to pick, what is the best gift that you have ever given?

Punto: Well, my mom is so easy to buy for, any time I get her anything she loves it. I think the best one was probably when I got to see my dad's face after I bought him a new set of golf clubs. He's an avid golfer and just loves the game. When I got him a new set of Calloway irons and woods, he was pretty thrilled.

MLB.com: OK, so we're going to have a little fun. We're going to make you Secret Santa for the Twins.

Punto: Oh Secret Santa, I remember that from when I was younger. Wow, that brings back memories.

MLB.com: The first person on your list is Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

Punto: Oh, what to get Gardy. Well, he's not that hard to buy for but since he's a practical joker, I can't get off giving him just a bowling ball or a new driver. Let me think. You know, he's terrible at fantasy football. I'd give him my team, but Lew [Ford] and I were terrible this year. So, I think I'd give him free fantasy league advice for a year. Maybe that would help get him into the fantasy playoffs.

MLB.com: Next up, we have Torii Hunter.

Punto: I think I'd have to give Torii three hours of sit-down advice on how to play cards. He's just awful.

MLB.com: OK, last one and this should be good. What would you get the man whose locker is right next to yours -- Mike Redmond?

Punto: Geez, Red Dog is easy. There are so many things I could get him. But if I had to give one, I think it would be my green Speedo. He really seems to love that thing.

MLB.com: You mean the one that has become almost a good luck charm of sorts around the club?

Punto: Yeah, I think I'd actually frame that green Speedo and let him put in on the wall of his game room. I know he wants it because every time I put it on, he's always saying just how awesome it is.

MLB.com: OK, so we know what to get Redmond for the holidays, but is there anything in particular that's on the top of your list this year?

Punto: My mom and dad always say I'm so hard to buy for. There's really nothing that jumps out in my head, except maybe if there was a way to get me a new golfer. Because right now my golfer has the shanks and it's terrible. My golfer is just bad, so if Santa could bring me a new golfer for Christmas I would be very happy.

MLB.com: So speaking of difficult gifts, this is your first Christmas as a married man. Are you having a hard time buying gifts for your wife?

Punto: You know what, I'm really fortunate to have a wife that is extremely down to earth, and it's never been hard to buy gifts at all around the holidays. And it never will be. That's why I married her. It's always fun and I like to surprise her, so hopefully I'll be able to do that this year, too.

MLB.com: Do you the two of you have any big plans for New Year's Eve?

Punto: We usually just lay low. It's not a good night to be out on the road. So this year, we'll probably have a little get-together at my house or Pat Burrell's or someone around here.

MLB.com: Are you a person that makes New Year's resolutions and if so, do you have a good one planned for this year?

Punto: I don't think I've made one the last couple of years. I haven't thought of any good ones. I'm sure this year my wife will help me.

MLB.com: Baseball usually isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the holidays, but a lot of the guys said that once they're over, that's when you really get the feeling season is right around the corner. Is that the case for you?

Punto: If you ask anybody around the league, the end of the holidays is the sign that, 'OK, here we go, it's time to really ramp up things.' I definitely start training a little harder right after the start of January. Right now it's a fun time, as everyone is still working out. I'm doing yoga, pilates and light workouts. Come January, though, the excitement really builds, as you can smell that Spring Training is right around the corner.

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