Popular Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto received a standing ovation before his first at-bat Sunday and cheers throughout what could have been the Canadian’s final game game with the Reds after 17 major league seasons.
Longtime 1st baseman will wait until end of season to determine baseball future
If Sunday’s 4-2 win over Pittsburgh was the final home game for Joey Votto as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, it’s hard to imagine a better sendoff for the potential Hall of Famer.
Before his first at-bat, the popular first baseman received a standing ovation, the first of many gestures from a crowd of 31,191 at sun-splashed Great American Ball Park.
The 16-year veteran major leaguer stepped out of the batter’s box and raised his helmet to the crowd, which stood chanting “Joey! Joey!”
“You almost had me crying,” Votto, who hails from the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, Ont., told fans and Bally Sports Cincinnati after the game. “There’s no crying in baseball. For you to stop the game, it means a great deal to me.”
The 80-77 Reds, who halted a four-game skid on Sunday, are 2.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs for the third and final wild-card spot in the National League with five games remaining – a two-game set at Cleveland starting Tuesday and a weekend series against the Cardinals in St. Louis.
“We’re going to fight all the way to the end of the season,” Votto told the loud crowd. “This team is tenacious.”
In the final days of the 10-year, $225-million US contract extension he signed in 2012, Votto said he would wait until after the season to determine his baseball future. There is a $20 million team option for next season, with a $7 million buyout.
I could have soaked it in forever. It was an honour of all honours. I’m humbled.— Joey Votto on Sunday’s standing ovation before his 1st at-bat
“After the last game of the season, whenever that happens, I would like to stop, just stop, and go from there,” said the six-time all-star and 2010 NL MVP. “I don’t like not being a productive player. I just want to continue to work and see where it takes me. I have never worked another job. I couldn’t imagine a better job.”
Votto, 40, struck out in his first two at-bats Sunday, was hit by a pitch in his third and capped is day at the plate with a single to centre-field in the eighth inning before Reds manager David Bell then lifted him for a pinch runner.
Curtain call for Joey Votto as he exits what could be his last game as a Red in Cincinnati pic.twitter.com/XTXb2snp3E
An emotional curtain call followed for Votto, who raised his right index finger to signal his adoring fans are No. 1 while still holding his batting helmet in his left hand.
“I could have soaked it in forever,” he told reporters at a post-game news conference of the cheers throughout the game. “It was an honour of all honours. It’s overwhelming. I’m humbled.”
In 1,038 games in Cincinnati, including the post-season, Votto boasts a .290 batting average, 199 doubles, 197 home runs and 609 runs batted in.
He debuted with the Reds on Sept. 4, 2007 and is second all-time in franchise history in home runs and on-base-plus slugging percentage, sixth in games played and first in walks.
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Just as Joey Votto’s career was flourishing, he was struck with a personal tragedy. Overcome with grief and anxiety, he left baseball only to return better than ever.
Votto is one of just 16 players in major league history with at least 2,000 hits, 350 homers and an on-base percentage of at least .410. Twelve of those players are in the Hall of Fame,
“He definitely is someone I admire,” Cincinnati second baseman Jonathan India told MLB.com. “He inspires a lot of people. Behind the scenes, he works so hard. I admire that, because I work very hard as well.
“He’s taught me a lot along the way. He’s not done. A lot of people think he’s done. He’s not done. I hope he’s in a Reds uniform next year.”
Reds rookie infielder/outfielder Spencer Steer told MLB.com it has been “inspiring” watching Votto return this season after a 10-month absence that followed an operation to repair his left biceps and rotator cuff.
“It’s been a very lucky opportunity for me to play with a guy of that calibre,” Steer said of Votto. “The amount of work that it took not only for him to get back but to play through it, I know he’s had to do a lot of treatment and preparation before and after every game.
“I think I’ve learned the most just from watching him.”
Votto had surgery on Aug. 19, 2022, ending a season that included a .205 average, 11 homers and 41 RBI. He has hit .205 in 62 games since returning in June with 14 home runs and 38 RBI.
“The injury last year was very difficult and coming back from it wasn’t easy. It’s a process,” said Votto, who endured two rehab stints at triple-A before making his season debut with Cincinnati. “I’m proud I didn’t cut any corners.
“I play every day with the combination of intensity and preparation. This is the best I can do, give the challenges that have been presented to me.”
With files from The Associated Press