BALTIMORE -- Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz remembers the Christmas when a brand-new, and very expensive, baseball bat was the only thing on his wish list.

"Before Christmas we went to the store, tried it out -- it was all I wanted," said Matusz, who was about 11 years old at the time.

The holiday came, and the Matusz clan unwrapped presents, without a bat in sight. Then Matusz's dad, Mike, told Brian and his brother, Chris, to check the fireplace. Hidden inside was a pair of shiny, new baseball bats -- a story that still brings excitement to Matusz's voice more than a decade later.

"My dad would do whatever he could to surprise us [and] make us happy," Matusz said.

"He's a special guy, and I know how much he sacrificed growing up, because we didn't grow up with the most money. He was always there for practices, and games, and to give me and my brother a great childhood growing up."

Matusz said the Christmas surprise is one he will remember forever, but his father's impact, both on the baseball diamond and in life, exceeds that singular moment.

"He's just a really good guy, you know?" Matusz said. "He's such a big part of my life still, even though I've moved out. He's still there, always trying to support me, say the right thing, and do things to make me feel comfortable."

Mike, who is a project manager for a development company, talks with his son nearly every day, either by text message or on the phone. They discuss topics ranging from Matusz's latest outing, to just life in general. For Matusz, it's just good to hear his dad's voice.

"Even through bad games, it's always positive stuff," he said. "He will text me, or say something positive. It's nice to have that."

Mike was on hand to watch his son's Major League debut last season, and watched proudly from the stands as Brian tossed five innings of one-run baseball, against the Tigers, to pick up his first big league win at Comerica Park. He made the trip to Baltimore's Camden Yards last season, and was in town for an O's homestand in May.

"He loves to just be there," Matusz said of his dad. "Sometimes he gets a little tense, he gets nervous for me. I said, 'Hey dad, don't be nervous. I'll be the one getting nervous. Just go out there and enjoy it.'"

So far, there has been much to enjoy for Mike, and his wife, Liz. After watching their son succeed at the University of San Diego, Brian was selected fourth overall in the 2008 Draft, and flew from the Minor Leagues to Baltimore in just one season. Only 23 years old, Matusz is a polished lefty who has been praised for his poise and maturity on the mound.

"[My dad] told me one time, 'Brian, you just pitched really well, at the highest level, against the Yankees. I've never had so much fun watching baseball before. You give me and my mom so much satisfaction, being able to watch our son succeed, and do something he loves at the highest level,'" Brian said.

"He's just always there for everything."