“It has to be something creative,” Rodriguez — who is partnering with Old Navy this holiday season — tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I can’t just go out and buy something expensive.”
“For Jennifer, something that’s handwritten, maybe a photo,” he says. “I don’t want to give any secrets away for this holiday, but it’s something that is heartfelt, something that resembles a memory that we’ve had together that involves our children, that involves our home because, ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.”
Earlier this week, Rodriguez announced Old Navy’s initiative to give $1 to Boys & Girls Clubs for every $1 cozy sock purchased on Black Friday this year.
For the World of Dance judge, 49, and the former Yankees player-turned-entrepreneur, 43, the best gift is simple: the presence of family around the tree. The pair, who have been dating since early last year, enjoy spending time as a blended family with Lopez’s 10-year-old twins Max and Emme (with ex-husband Marc Anthony) and Rodriguez’s daughters Natasha, 14, and Ella, 10 (with ex-wife Cynthia Scurtis). And they’ve made sure to teach them the art of giving back from a young age.
“I think the holiday season is really about giving back, and one of the things we mandate for our kids — all four of them — is to go into the Boys & Girls Club, go into the inner cities where there’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, and they have to give back,” he says.
Speaking last year at the Boys & Girls Club of Miami-Dade just ahead of the All-Star game, the 14-time MLB player recalled how the local charity formed his childhood years and guided his future, and “really shifted — perhaps saved — my life.”
“My mother had two jobs and she was a waitress at nighttime and she was a secretary in the mornings,” said Rodriguez. “As soon as I finished school, I would go over to the Boys & Girls Club, where I would go and do my homework, and after we did our homework they would turn on the lights and I would play baseball.”
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“So it’s formally where I learned how to play baseball, and if it wasn’t for the Boys & Girls Club, I wouldn’t have played in the major league for almost 23 years,” he continues.
Although Rodriguez is a star on the field, he prefers to pass Lopez the ball when it comes to cooking up the holiday dishes.
“Jennifer is the expert cook, but she got it from Lupe, her mom,” he says. “She’s an incredible talent — she dances, she sings and she’s a great cook.”
“I’m the beneficiary of some good cooking in the kitchen,” he adds. “They don’t allow me anywhere near the kitchen. What they do though is they send me on a lot of errands!”