MLB.com: Where did you spend the holidays as a youngster?
Hillman: I grew up in Arlington, Texas, and Christmas was always a huge event and still is. No. 1, as a little kid, it provided a lot of time with the family. But also we were out of school. We had that break so that provided a lot of joy, too -- just being out of school.
MLB.com: What did Christmas mean to you?
Hillman: With my family, it was meant to be a celebration of Jesus Christ's birthday and to just spend a lot of quality family time together. It was always a blast because we did have everybody together. And we had a pretty good neighborhood of kids, and if the weather was good, we were outside playing, mostly basketball. If we got bored with that, we got on our bikes and we'd knock each other over. We just had a blast. It was play, play, play, family time, family time, gifts, gifts, gifts.
MLB.com: What was Christmas Day like at your home?
Hillman: It was wake up early and see what Santa Claus left. And it was always unwrapped gifts to see what Santa left under the tree. Where I grew up, we didn't have a fireplace, so they were left under the tree and it was very exciting.
MLB.com: Was sports involved in the gift giving?
Hillman: Always. Anything that had to do with baseball, basketball or football. All three of us, even my sisters, were all in tune with the big three major sports. And, with Dad having been a coach, there was always a lot of athletic equipment around the house. We didn't ever want for having a baseball. It might not have all its seams or all the cover on it. We grew up in a cul-de-sac and I spent a lot of my earnings from mowing yards and my allowances to replace panes of glass.
MLB.com: Was there any particular gift that you especially remember?
Hillman: One thing knocked my socks off when I was a little guy, about 5 or 6 years old. Dad was a football coach at Arlington High School and I'll never forget getting my official football pants with pads in them, shoulder pads, an Arlington High jersey my size and a helmet to match. I think I slept in that helmet and got a crick in my neck.
MLB.com: What's Christmas like for you now?
Hillman: We've never simplified our Christmas. Marie and I still meet with both sides of our family. We have two major Christmases. We still go south to her family in Angleton (Texas), where she grew up, and we pushed the date for the Hillman side back a little bit and they all meet at Liberty Hill in central Texas. My sister, Sharolyn, comes in from Colorado, dad and new mom come in from Arlington and my sister, Sharla, comes in from Euless (Texas) and we've got all the cousins and grandkids right there. Our children get to see all the aunts and uncles on both sides and all the cousins on both sides. So it's still very tight-knit and it's a fun time. It's a little hectic, but it's fun.
MLB.com: Does Santa still come around your house?
Hillman: My wife and I tell our children, who are 15 and 12: "The day you stop believing, he stops coming." So they better fake it.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.