In 2012, my freshman year of high school, I decided to try my hand at fantasy baseball. I had played baseball my whole life, but never really watched MLB. So, leaping into the world of fantasy baseball meant that I had to actually pay attention to what was going on in the big leagues. I turned to my dad, an Ohio native and Cincinnati Reds fan, for advice on who to watch. He told me just one name — Brandon Phillips. Seriously dad, what the hell were you thinking? Nonetheless, Phillips paved the path to watching the best hitter in the league … Joey Votto. I drafted him in fantasy, he mashed, and my love for Votto was set in motion. Here’s a few reasons why I love him so much.
He Was Made in a Sabermetric Lab
It’s easy to like players who are really good at baseball, and through the lens of advanced metrics, Votto has been everything you want in a hitter. He’s hit for power, he’s hit for average, and has consistently been one of the best in the league at drawing walks. Votto has been in the league since 2007, and has had nine seasons with an OBP over .400 and nine seasons with a batting average above the golden .300 mark. He has a career walk rate of 16%, a career wOBA of .402, and a career 151 wRC+.
In a career filled with heaps of statistical achievements, Votto also has done some crazy stuff in games. Did you know Votto is so good at drawing walks, he can do it on just three balls? On May 31, 2015, Votto faced Nationals lefty Matt Grace in a six-pitch battle that ended in a walk. But, when Votto took his free pass, the count was 2-2. Votto walked to first and no one batted an eye. Walking is so routine for Votto that no one even questioned the count this time up. Don’t believe me?
But the walks don’t stop there. On Sept. 23, 2013, Votto went 0-0 with five walks. Five! He went to the plate five times and never registered an at-bat! If walks aren’t your cup of tea, how about home runs? He’s done that too. On May 13, 2012, Votto went 4-for-5 against the Nationals with three home runs — including a walk-off grand slam! June 9, 2015: Votto repeated the three-homer feat, smashing one to each field against the Phillies. To cap off his successes, Votto owns six All Star appearances and an MVP title. And, if we’re being honest, he should probably own two MVP trophies. But like I said, the statistics are the easy reasons to like him. Great players are great players. It’s the other stuff they do that make you love a guy.
He’s the Class Clown
It may not be well known, but Votto is probably one of the funnier players in the league. For example, how many players do you see trolling the fans of other teams? You want a foul ball and you’re not a Reds fan? Good luck getting it from Votto.
And if he’s not keeping the ball, he’s making sure you don’t get it!
And when Votto makes a nice catch in front of you, he’s going to rub it in a little bit.
It’s all in good fun for Votto, who jogs away with a smile across his face each time. But the humor doesn’t stop with just fan interaction. It happens in the clubhouse too. There’s probably a few moments I could choose to write about, but instead I’ll just leave you with my favorite.
Shortly after the 2017 All-Star Game, Votto did something you would expect to only see in the movies. At the time, Votto’s best friend and teammate, Zack Cozart, was in the running for his first ever All-Star Game appearance. Votto had made a promise to him that, if Cozart made the roster, Votto would buy him a donkey. Not a stuffed animal, or an antique, but a real, living, breathing donkey. And when Cozart was nominated as an NL All-Star, that’s exactly what Votto did. He bought him a donkey.
Votto took it a step further and did a little skit presenting the donkey to Cozart. Seriously, this belongs on Comedy Central.
Everything about this video is a prime example of the hilarious personality Votto has. His comedic presence makes the Reds entertaining, even when they are losing 90 games a season.
Votto’s on-the-field and in-the-clubhouse antics are only the tip of the iceberg. The true gold lies within his interviews, where he can make you laugh or learn within his segment. Votto is one of those hitters who loves to think, analyze, and dissect his swing and approach, making him a great source of information for those looking to improve their own swing. He was my main source of information as a player. Any player who is willing to put their knowledge out there so younger players can learn, whether intentionally or not, is automatically likable in my book. Here’s just one example of Votto talking about his swing and the importance of making adjustments.
But when Votto doesn’t want to give away his secrets to hitting, he’ll take the funny guy approach. For instance, take Votto’s unique characteristic of choking up on the bat.
Joey Votto has a very strategic system for choking up.
— MLB (@MLB) July 11, 2017
Again, there are numerous interviews I could include in this article, but it would become more of a novel. So, I’ll leave you with my favorite. The greatest interview on Intentional Talk, and perhaps the best interview in all of baseball: I give you Votto embracing his Canadian culture.
This play, on May 23, 2015, is the play that defines Votto’s defense for me. It’s the first play that comes to mind when I think of him at first base, and it’s a play I spent my last two years of college baseball trying to mimic. For every high school shortstop in America, there’s the Jeter throw. A backhanded jump throw from the five-and-a-half hole is the dream play. But not for me. For me, it’s this underhanded flick to second base. I can’t tell you how many times I tried making this throw in practice, only to watch the ball soar into left field or dribble into center field. It’s without a doubt one of the most impressive throws I’ve seen an infielder, and definitely a first basemen, make in a game. Easily the smoothest 3-6 double play you’ll ever see.
Votto is an MLB national treasure. A one-of-a-kind player and person. He’s the sole reason I wanted to wear #19 and the player I always worked toward being. I have so many reasons why I love baseball, but the number one reason is Joey Votto.
Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter and Instagram)