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Friday, March 25, 2011
Tales of the MLB offseason

By Amanda Rykoff

With 162 regular-season games plus spring training and the playoffs, a major league baseball player can participate in up to 213 baseball games in a single calendar year. That's a lot of baseball with not a lot of downtime. With time off so precious, players try to make the most of it. Here's the best of what major leaguers did during their winter vacations:

Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies shortstop

The 2007 NL MVP and three-time All-Star celebrated his one-year wedding anniversary with a two-week trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. "We absolutely fell in love with the city," Rollins said. Rollins and his wife also enjoyed the wonderful wines and meat that Argentina is known for. "Any Argentina Malbec, you can't lose," Rollins said. "But Catena 2005 was my favorite." As for his favorite cut of steak, Rollins didn't hesitate. "Bife de Lomo," Rollins said. "We were there two weeks, I probably had that about 10 times." (Rollins was back on his diet of chicken and fish as soon as he got back to the States.)

Nick Swisher, New York Yankees right fielder

If you follow the entertainment and celebrity scene, you probably know the 2010 All-Star married actress Joanna Garcia (pictured above) in December. "The highlight of my year was getting married last offseason," Swisher said. "It was amazing. Such a great time." The newlywed couldn't be happier. "Winning the World Series was great," Swisher said, "but getting married like that was waaaay cooler. It's just hopefully I found my best friend. We're happy and having a blast with it."

Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles center fielder

The 2009 All-Star joined teammate Jeremy Guthrie and other baseball players for Orioles pitcher Rick VandenHurk's European Big League Tour, a tour of free baseball clinics in Europe. During the nine-day trip, the players visited four camps in Holland and Belgium. "Rick showed us a great time, and it was pretty exciting to be able to show the game of baseball to Europe," Jones said. "We all know Europe is big on soccer, and we were able to help out about 2,500 kids." Jones said VandenHurk hopes to get MLB and sponsors behind the tour to make it an annual trip.

Johnny Damon, Tampa Rays outfielder

Damon, a self-proclaimed metalhead, joined friends in November aboard ShipRocked, the Ultimate Rock & Roll Cruise. "That was awesome," Damon said. "Just a bunch of rock bands going out to sea and playing some music." The cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to the Bahamas and back featured performances by Cinderella, Tesla and Motley Crue's Vince Neil. Damon is friends with members of the bands Sevendust and Ten Years, who also performed on the cruise.

Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees center fielder

In January, Granderson visited New Zealand as an MLB ambassador to help promote the sport and host baseball camps for young New Zealand baseball players. The 2009 All-Star was grateful for the opportunity to "see a part of the world that I probably wouldn't have otherwise." The Chicago native was particularly taken with the spectacular scenery of the country. "Going to Queenstown and seeing a place that was as beautiful as it was," Granderson said. "I've only seen pictures of things like that."

Of course, not every major league baseball player I talked to had an exciting story to tell from this winter. "I was pretty boring this offseason," said Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. "I was that guy."