Votto is humble. So humble that he hesitates to talk about himself.
Joey is very respectful of the game, very honorable. He is also an exceptionally clean living man. He takes care of himself.
He often says, "Baseball is just my job." And he treats it as such, preparing meticulously, taking pride in his work, harboring ambition while avoiding office politics.
Growing up in hockey-loving Canada, Joey said, "I just didn't want to play hockey in youth leagues or high school growing up. I wanted to play only baseball. My Dad got me started in the game, and I haven't stopped playing since."
He never even got the hang of skating. He tells about going to a rink as a teenager for a first date with a new girlfriend. "When she saw what a disaster I was on the ice, she dumped me," Joey said.
Votto's parents, Joseph and Wendy, owned a restaurant. And when it went bust, the family struggled. Eventually, Joseph got a job as a chef at a Toronto yacht club. And Wendy became a sommelier (a wine steward).
He is a hard working, self-motivated player. He studies the game, reads books about improving his skills, and applies the knowledge.
Even as a youth, Votto devoted reading time to books and other information that would help make him a better ballplayer. To this day, he works on all aspects of the game with diligence. He really wants to be a good player, the best he can possibly be.
Joey even claims to never watch ESPN or read articles about himself. He values daily improvement, hard work, and diligence in approaching his craft.
"It's better for him that way," shortstop Orlando Cabrera said. "He is eventually going to get his side of the pie, there's no doubt in my mind. He just does his thing. He works hard, and he does have high expectations for himself."
As a teenager, Joey was given Ted Williams' book, The Science of Hitting and was fascinated by the single-minded challenge of solving a pitcher's intent. It fit an introvert like him.
Joey has always been infatuated with the legend and lore of Ted Williams, having read every book by him and perhaps most every book about Teddy Ballgame.
"When I was younger, he was like a super-hero to me. I studied what he would do about his eyes, the way he acted, the way he sacrificed four years of his life to go to war..."
- In 2003, Votto led the Pioneer League with a .452 on-base percentage.
Before 2004 spring training, Baseball America rated Joey as the #5 prospect in the Reds' organization.
Before 2005 spring camps opened, the magazine announced Votto had moved up to 4th-best prospect in the Cincinnati system.
But during the off-season before 2006 camps opened, Baseball America had Joey moved down to 9th-best prospect in the Reds' organization.
Then, in the spring of 2007, Baseball America moved Votto back up to #3 in the Cincy farm system.
And in the spring of 2008, they again had him at third best prospect in the Reds organization.
One aspect of his game that has never been questioned is his desire. Considered a coach's dream, Votto is a tireless worker who aims to improve in every aspect of the game. Votto spent hours each day throughout high school working on his game in an indoor facility just outside of Toronto.
He is still one of the first guys to the ballpark, and one of the last to leave.
- After the 2005 season, Votto played for Canada at the World Cup Games.
Joey says his favorite meal is pizza. And his favorite TV show is "Seinfeld." Favorite actors: Russell Crowe and Tom Hanks. For music, Votto likes Hip-Hop.
The person in history he'd most like to meet? Ted Williams.
Joey says he learned more about the game from Scott Rolen than anyone else.
Votto says the sign of success is: Happiness
Favorite sports team (other than baseball): Los Angeles Lakers.
- Votto's first car was a beat-up Plymouth Sundance. "It was a mess. Dents all over. Couldn't open one of the doors. It was a special car," Joey said.
In 2006, Votto not only led the Southern League in doubles (46), but he also tied with Seth Smith of the Tulsa Drillers for most doubles in all of Minor League Baseball for the season.
Joey won league MVP honors after leading the SL in batting (.319), on-base percentage (.408), slugging (.547), runs (85), hits (162), doubles (46, tying for tops in the minors), and extra-base hits (70).
- Votto was selected as the 2007 International League rookie of the year because of his fine season for the Louisville Bats. He ranked fourth in the loop in home runs (22), second in RBIs (92), and he has compiled a 42-game on-base streak.
August 9, 2008: Votto was on the bereavement list for the passing of his father Joe.
"He watched every game," Joey said. "It was part of his routine. He was a hard worker, too—one of those guys who did it every single day, then came home looking forward to watching my game (with the Reds)."
Votto's father was a chef for a retirement home, worked 9-to-5, but made sure he got back to his suburban Toronto home in time to watch the Reds.
- In 2009, Votto finished a distant second to Cubs catcher Geovany Soto in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. Joey received the only first-place vote that Soto didn't receive.
- Early in the 2010 season, Joey got a new roommate when he obtained a black Labrador retriever puppy from a shelter and named him Maris, after Roger Maris, the man who hit 61 home runs in 1961 for the Yankees, breaking Babe Ruth's record.
- During the 2010 season, Joey got a dog. And he loves that dog.
- In 2010, Votto was the landslide winner of the National League MVP Award. He received 31 of the 32 first-place votes. Albert Pujols got the only other first place vote.
- In 2011, Chris Singleton (ESPN'S Baseball Tonight) said that Votto is probably the most intense player in the N.L.
During the offseason, Votto likes to spend the month of October doing a lot of fun activities, "such as bike rides, Rollerblades, tennis with a buddy," he says. Then, starting in November, he starts more serious workouts.
"I try to strengthen my hands all the time," Joey said. "I have exercise balls, rice, weights. I want to feel strong when I hold the bat, like I'm in total control."
- Two of Joey's hobbies are learning to speak French and Spanish.
Before 2012 spring training, Joey hired a private tutor to teach him Spanish, then backed that up with additional sessions on the Rosetta Stone program. Votto came to the realization that if he wanted to form better relationships—on and off the field—with all of his teammates, then he would have to close the communication gap between himself and players whose first language is Spanish.
He felt it was wrong that he couldn't communicate with Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, for example. Joey learned French as a kid and felt there were enough similarities between it and Spanish so that he could grasp it quickly. Votto even challenged Chapman to a duel: He would speak Spanish better than Aroldis could speak English.
- Votto is pretty quiet and stays mostly to himself. But he can be funny once he gets to know you.
- In 2013, an act of kindness by Votto gave a dying man, and Reds fan, a final thrill.
Jeff Crews, who was from Centerville, Ohio, near Dayton, had terminal brain cancer and was invited by Votto to the Reds' July 2 game vs. the Giants. The entire family was given field passes to watch batting practice and meet Votto and some of the team. Votto chatted with Crews and gave him one of his bats.
"Jeff literally had to hold his chin up because it kept falling down in disbelief at what we were experiencing," the Crews' family blog said. "Dusty Baker came over for autographs and a picture, as well as Todd Frazier. Then the moment came when Joey walked over to meet us. Joey Votto couldn't have been a nicer, more humble, and down to earth guy."
Crews and his family watched the game in seats behind the Reds dugout. It was the game when Homer Bailey threw his no-hitter. Crews and his wife happened to be in Pittsburgh for their anniversary and watched Bailey throw his first no-hitter vs. the Pirates last season.
On July 4, just two days after his time with Votto, Jeff passed away.
"He was so lucid when I was talking with him that when I had heard he died two days after, it was a bit of a surprise to me," Votto said. "He was really fantastic to talk to, a very nice man and his family. It just seemed like a normal meeting. They were happy to come to the ballpark, happy to watch the game, happy to meet me, happy to watch batting practice. Homer threw a no-hitter. I'm grateful and very humbled to have been a part of that." (Sheldon -mlb.com - 7/09/13)
In June 2009, Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto revealed publicly that he was battling depression and crippling anxiety that surfaced several months after the sudden death of his 52-year-old father, Joseph.
Joey suffered from panic attacks that led to two hospital stays. He rebounded in 2010 to win the National League MVP award.
In 2013, citing his own bouts with panic attacks and depression, the Reds star launched the Joey Votto Foundation. The Foundation supports the healing of service members, veterans and military families affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the Greater Cincinnati and Toronto areas.
Walk-Up Music: Votto strolls out to The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black,” which is what pitchers have to do if they want to avoid getting crushed.
Joey is generally known for being serious and straight-laced, but the Reds first baseman showed his sense of humor when he did a TV interview with MLB Network's "Intentional Talk" show—dressed in a Canadian Mountie uniform and hat.
For Votto, who hails from Toronto, it was a fun shot at revenge for something that co-hosts Chris Rose and Kevin Millar did to him on a show during Spring Training. "They photo-shopped me in a Mountie outfit [with Bret Michaels]," Votto said.
Votto's face was deadpan throughout most of the interview as Rose and Millar did not know what was coming and ad-libbed questions throughout. Votto, the serious Mountie, talked about being part of "the red surge" and proudly mentioned that he rides his horse named "Nibbles" to the ballpark every day.
"I think it's fun to do stuff like that," Votto said. "Kevin is a really fun guy to chat with. Chris is also. Hopefully they liked that." Reds teammates watching the show on clubhouse televisions were laughing out loud.
"He was straight-facing Millar and Rose like that. I don't know how you can't smile with those two. He can be at the top of the general's list if he wanted to," Reds third baseman Todd Frazier said. "That's what we like. That's what we need more of." (Sheldon - mlb.com - 4/8/14)
Spring 2015: Votto made a point of saying "Bonjour Montreal" to greet his French-speaking Canadian fans.
Votto made his Reds debut in 2007, and never had the opportunity to play a Major League Baseball game in Montreal. The Toronto native said he played a few games at Olympic Stadium as a member of a traveling team.
"It brings back a lot of good memories. I'm really, really excited to be here," Votto said. "I feel like any time I cross the border I feel like I'm home, and that includes Montreal."
Votto said that when he arrived in Montreal, he could feel the energy in the city from the anticipation of two-game series between the Reds and the Blue Jays.
"I think myself and the team are excited to play in front of a packed crowd," Votto said. "I think it's more of a reflection on the fans and the interest in watching a couple of baseball games than it is the teams included, but I'm very proud to be here and to be playing in a stadium that has some much interest, that is so willing to fill up a stadium. So myself and my teammates, and I'm sure the Blue Jays feel the same way."
Montreal Expos right fielder Larry Walker was a Canadian player who Votto singled out as a particular influence on him, beginning a line of succession that also included Justin Morneau and Russell Martin.
"Larry was a big influence on all Canadian players, and you hand that off to guys like Justin and Russell and Ryan Dempster, and it continues," Votto said.
Reds manager Bryan Price made his first trip to Olympic Stadium, but was well-versed on Expos lore.
"I'm a baseball fan and have been for many, many years so I'm certainly aware of Rusty Staub, and Steve Rogers, and the great team they had in 1994 before the strike. And the fact that, when I was a minor league player, I don't think any team was putting out more credible big leaguers through their system than Montreal," Price said. "They had a great system in place, they were developing big leaguers and they had some of the better teams over the course of the 1980s and early 90s. So being able to come in here and see the facility and get a chance to see what the environment's like here with the people of Montreal is pretty fun for me." (S Farrell - MLB.com - April 3, 2015
May 8, 2015; Votto received a one-game suspension for bumping an umpire during an argument.
September 11, 2015: Votto received a two-game suspension and an undisclosed fine from Major League Baseball for what was termed "inappropriate actions" after his ejection by home-plate umpire Bill Welke during the September 9 game against the Pirates.
In an impassioned retort to the development, Votto announced his intention to appeal the suspension levied by Joe Garagiola, Jr., MLB's senior vice president of standards and on-field operations.
"In this instance, I disagree with the suspension. I disagree with the ejection," Votto said. "At no point did I misbehave before the ejection. At no point was I disrespectful. On many occasions … there was politeness on the field. I went over and above to be respectful and unfortunately, I'm put in a situation where I now have to defend myself publicly."
During the eighth inning of a 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh, Votto took a 1-1 pitch for a called strike by Welke. He asked for timeout and it was denied. When he turned to manager Bryan Price in the dugout to appeal, Welke ejected Votto. (M Sheldon - MLB.com - September 11, 2015)
During a drill at Reds 2016 Spring Training camp called "27 outs," the team needed a runner on first base to start the play. Any Minor Leaguer or rookie could have done it, but it was team star Joey Votto who grabbed his helmet and jogged to the base.
A few observers this spring have anecdotally mentioned that Votto is often among the last off the field during workouts.
"I haven't done it intentionally," Votto said. "I was doing the same thing when my leadership was questioned before."
Votto has taken some hits in the media over the years for not being a vocal clubhouse leader. He has cringed in the past when players toss around the leadership word and announce that they will be team leaders. As far as Votto is concerned, leadership doesn't work that way. He generally aims to set a high standard on the field and be a good example. That could be even more important in 2016 since the Reds are rebuilding and feature a slew of new, young players.
"2015 was a very humbling experience, an embarrassing experience," Votto said. "I think we've realized that we can go in two directions. One being that we're the kind of organization that's a walk-all-over team, a team that is just a stepping stone for other organizations towards the playoffs and World Series. Or we're not going to say, 'We're bad,' and be embarrassed by that and do our very best to be as competitive as possible."
Though the Reds finished last in the National League Central in 2015, Votto was third in NL Most Valuable Player Award balloting. (Sheldon - MLB.com - 3/10/16)
Votto rarely lets outsiders delve into matters concerning his hitting approach. His thoughts inside the batters' box are his alone. Therefore, what the Reds' first baseman was doing in the box in the sixth inning vs. the Dodgers in Spring Training 2016 will remain a mystery.
"I'm not being coy," Votto said. "I'd just rather not get into it. Nothing good can come out of it for me."
Between pitches in the sixth, Votto didn't step out of the box, but placed his bat between his legs, the bottom on the ground and the handle around his belt, and bent over with his hands on his knees. Since the game was televised by the Dodgers, it drew the attention of their broadcasters while photos and video clips went viral among fans on social media.
Votto finished the plate appearance with a line single to center field.
"Clearly we need a regular-season game," Votto said. "Holy cow, we need to play some baseball. This is just ridiculous. And I've done that before, during a regular-season game. And it must have been on TV. And someone must have taken notice that wants to say something about it." (Sheldon - MLB.com - 3/29/16)
May 7, 2016: Neither Joey Votto nor Brandon Phillips could remember much about their first game together with the Cincinnati Reds. It’s likely they didn’t know at the time they’d be in for such a long partnership.
On May 7th, the pair made their 1,000th start as a tandem for the Reds, the longest active pairing between a first and second baseman in baseball and eighth-longest in baseball history. It was also Phillips’ 1,500th career game with Cincinnati. (Zach Buchanan - enquirer.com )
Dec 2, 2016: Joey Votto certainly gets it. As long as the Reds first baseman keeps producing while signed to a monster contract for a small-market club, his name will come up in trade rumors and trade suggestions each offseason. But Votto's feelings, and the club's, don't follow the narrative. He has no interest in waiving the full no-trade clause in his contract and going to another team.
"I do understand why there is a conversation. It's interesting," Votto said as the team gathered for Redsfest. "After a while, you get used to it. You don't pay much attention to it because if they're going to [report rumors] five years in a row, then at some point there's not much meaning to it."
Votto, 33, has seven guaranteed years and $179 million left on the 10-year extension he signed in 2012. There is a $20 million team option for the 2024 season.
"I'm looking forward to the team getting better," Votto said. "I'm looking forward to being a part of it. I know I have to do everything I can to be a better all-around player so I can keep up with the rest of the guys on the team. Watching both the Indians and the Cubs compete in the World Series this year, you saw almost every different aspect of what makes winning baseball happen.
"I felt like there are parts of my game, specifically, that I was coming up a bit short on. I'm looking forward to playing with 25 guys that can bring a championship back to Cincinnati. The three playoff experiences that I've had were short-lived and disappointing. I'd like another go here." (M Sheldon - MLB.com - Dec 2, 2016)
December 2016: Votto committed to play for Canada in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
June 2002: Joey signed with the Reds, and scout John Castleberry, a couple of days after he was drafted Reds in the second round, out of Richview Collegiate Institute in Toronto. He got a bonus of $600,000.
January 17, 2011: Votto and the Reds agreed to a three-year, $38 million contract.
- April 2, 2012: Joey and the Reds signed a 10-year, $225 million contract. It includes the two years he already is signed for. It was the fourth largest deal in Major League Baseball history. (Votto was already signed for $9.5 million for 2012 and $17 million for 2013.)