Give it Up For Joey Votto

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Monday is Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds, which is exciting. It’s probably my favorite day of the year in this city. After that, however, things are likely to be rather unexciting. All signs point to the Reds not being very good this season. This is unfortunate. But there is at least one potential bright spot. I am all-in on whatever has gotten into Joey Votto this spring.

I’m not talking about Votto’s performance as a player. You should already be safely and securely strapped in on that bandwagon. I’m talking about Votto’s performance as a comedic, morale-boosting, crowd-pleasing personality in spring training.

Since he entered the league, there have been as many stories about Votto the quiet introvert as there have been mind-numbing debates about his walk rate or where he should hit in the batting order. Votto has always been a very smart, intellectual player, but rarely came across as overly gregarious. The most emotion he exhibited was generally the one or two times a year he’s been good for a grand spectacle of an ejection. But so far this spring training, he’s been hamming it up, starting Day 1 in late-February with his proclamation of being “single, with no kids, good looking.”

We’ve seen flashes of this before from Votto—the Mountie interview in 2014 (Nibbles!), calling himself a “bad motherf***er” last April—but his rate of hilarity in 2016 has been unprecedented.

There was the chalk toss…

 

The “Ronaldo”…

 

The wrestler jump from the top rope…

BUNTING!?!?!

Votto bunts #RedsST

A photo posted by Cincinnati Reds (@reds) on


It’s been incredible, and one can only pray it continues.

I talked earlier this week on our (shameless self-promtion bomb coming) Live at The Lodge podcast about how I was worried about Votto’s mental health this season. (I made a hilarious and timely N*SYNC comparison. Check it out.) He’s going to be far and away the best player on a struggling team full of young, unproven guys, and a few veterans likely to be traded. It seems like a recipe for disaster. But Votto’s mindset in spring training suggests otherwise. Maybe he’s come to terms with the fact that a rough season doesn’t have to be joyless, that if his play isn’t enough to spur a successful team, the least he can do is keep things loose and fun in the clubhouse.

Or maybe he’ll be all business once the season starts, or this is his way of deflecting and bottling up his rage until it explodes with him bludgeoning Tucker Barnhart in the dugout with a catcher’s mitt, or roundhouse kicking an umpire after a called third strike.

I hope not. We all need a little something to look forward to.

Justin Williams is an associate editor at Cincinnati Magazine and will never stop riding for Votto’s horse, Nibbles. You can follow him on Twitter at @Williams_Justin.

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