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Reds slug­ger Joey Votto re­turns to his na­tive Toronto for in­ter­league se­ries

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY GREGORY STRONG

Cincin­nati slug­ger Joey Votto has built a re­sume that seems to get bet­ter with ev­ery pass­ing sea­son.

Over parts of 11 sea­sons with the Reds, the Cana­dian first base­man has 233 ca­reer homers, a .312 bat­ting av­er­age and on-base per­cent­age of .424. A for­mer Gold Glover and Na­tional League most valu­able player, Votto is also the foun­da­tion for a fran­chise that is try­ing to build its way into con­tention.

His for­ma­tive years in the sport were a tad un­usual. As a young­ster, win­ter weather in the On­tario cap­i­tal forced the Toronto na­tive to prac­tise his swing in in­door cages or chilly garages.

He worked on his de­fen­sive skills year-round too. Votto would of­ten grab his glove and chuck a ball against a school­yard wall whether there was ice on the ground or not.

“I don’t think I let any­thing get in my way,’’ Votto said be­fore the Reds played the Blue Jays on Mon­day night.

Votto at­tended Richview Col­le­giate In­sti­tute in the city’s west end and came up through the Eto­bi­coke Rangers base­ball pro­gram. The Reds drafted him out of high school in 2002 and he made his big-league de­but with the team five years later.

Votto, 33, has been with Cincin­nati ever since, sign­ing a 12year deal with the team in 2012 worth over US$200 mil­lion.

“I think with Joey, he doesn’t feel like the game has ever re­ally come easy to him,’’ said Reds man­ager Bryan Price. “I think the work ethic is some­thing that has rubbed off a lot on a lot of the young play­ers here.

“See­ing that if you’re go­ing to be great, you’ve got some­thing to do ev­ery day at the ball­park to main­tain what you’re do­ing and get bet­ter.’’

Votto main­tains that strong work ethic in the off-sea­son.

He shared a story Mon­day de­tail­ing how he went to a school in his neigh­bour­hood over the win­ter months to work on a few things. The memories of his youth came flood­ing back.

“There was a cou­ple oc­ca­sions where it was later at night and I knew I had to get some throw­ing in,’’ Votto said. “So I had to go to a school lo­cally and throw against the wall. This was this past off-sea­son and it brought me back to the times when I was a kid, throw­ing against the wall, pick­ing out a lit­tle brick and aim­ing for it, field­ing a ground ball like I’m pre­par­ing for the sea­son.

“It just re­minded me of when I was eight years old, 12 years old, 15 years old. It was cold. It was re­ally cold. But it def­i­nitely brought good memories back and it re­minded me of how much joy and how I felt about base­ball the first lit­tle bit of my life when I started dab­bling in it.’’

Votto, a four-time all-star, is en­joy­ing an­other strong sea­son. He en­tered Mon­day’s game with 12 homers, 39 RBIs, a .287 av­er­age and .415 on-base per­cent­age.

“I try to think about get­ting bet­ter and think about not be­ing sat­is­fied with how I’ve played in the past,’’ said Votto, who last played an in­ter­league se­ries at Rogers Cen­tre in 2009. “More than any­thing I think about — as I’ve got­ten older — I think about how I fit into a win­ning cul­ture. I haven’t been a part of a World Se­ries team. It’s some­thing I’m re­ally ex­cited to hope­fully be a part of.

“There’s been a lot of great play­ers who haven’t had an op­por­tu­nity to win a cham­pi­onship. That’s some­thing that I re­ally hope I get to be a part of one day be­cause it sure looks fun.’’

CP PHOTO

Cincin­nati Reds first base­man Joey Votto runs to first base af­ter ground­ing out against the Toronto Blue Jays dur­ing fourth in­ning MLB in­ter­league base­ball ac­tion in Toronto on Mon­day.

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