For Olivers, Christmas is about giving back
Rangers reliever works with wife to support families in need
ARLINGTON -- There was always one thing Darren Oliver could look forward to every Christmas."The best thing about Christmas is that every year my mom would put Nerf footballs in our stockings," Oliver said. "That would be the first thing that we grabbed. We'd take the wrapper off and start slinging it in the street. Before you know it, we would have a touch football game going. The neat thing about a Nerf football is you could throw it as far as you wanted ... until it got wet." Maybe throwing a Nerf football on Christmas morning is how Oliver built up the arm strength that has allowed him to enjoy a 17-year Major League career as a starter and relief pitcher. Memories of great holidays in the past also help provide motivation for Oliver and his wife, Melissa, to get involved in helping others enjoy Christmas. Five days before Christmas, Darren and Melissa, along with other members of their family, hosted a holiday dinner for 15 area families at the Ballpark in Arlington. Dinner was served, $100 gift certificates from Target were passed out and each family took home a bag with everything needed to cook Christmas dinner. After all, as Oliver remembers it, a Christmas meal with the family is just as important as slinging the Nerf football in the street. "It definitely makes Christmas more special to have a nice dinner," Oliver said. "It's great to have the family all around, talking and smiling and a lot of laughter. My mom would cook turkey and ham, make greens and sweet potato pie and cook breakfast. It was great." The families who were the recipients of Oliver's generosity are all trying to get their lives back together after some rough times. They are from the
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.