CINCINNATI — One of the things Joey Votto despises most, other than talking about himself, is the stereotyping the unknowing assume about him.
Just because he was born and raised in Toronto, the unknowing automatically ask him, “Did you play hockey, do you have a favorite hockey team, do you have a favorite hockey player?”
His answer is no, no and no. In fact, he never played hockey, never put on a pair of hockey skates and can’t ice skate.
What Joey Votto can do is play baseball, especially knock the stitches loose with a baseball bat.
And it sort of grates on him that so many people think it is different or special that a Canadian can be so good at baseball.
When the Minnesota Twins come to town, it’s natural for the media to gravitate to Cincinnati’s Votto and Minnesota’s Justin Morneau because, well, both are Canadian, both are first basemen and both won the Most Valuable Player award — Votto the National League’s in 2010 and Morneau the American League’s in 2009.
“As for the Canadian part, everybody mentions that type of stuff, but the media is bordering on prejudice bringing up that stuff and I’m almost getting offended. I’m a human being first,” he said, smiling as he said it, but speaking from the heart.
National League pitchers sometimes dispute Votto’s claim that he is a human being, because when they see him with a bat in his hand he becomes a hitting automaton.
Votto is happy to talk about Morneau, but not so pleased to answer questions like, “What’s it like to have two MVPs from Canada on the field at the same time and what will you two talk about at first base?”
“If we get to meet at first base, we’ll talk about standard stuff like the family, how are you feeling, but we don’t talk about coming together and having some sort of MVP award trophy discussion or Tupperware party to talk about it,” said Votto with a sly mile.
“People think players linger with that type of stuff, but that’s the past, we’re men, we have our own lives, and that’s what we care about,” he added.
But Votto didn’t hesitate when asked about Morneau, who missed nearly all of last season with a concussion problem, but is back playing nearly every day for the Twins.
“First off, I’m incredibly impressed with his comeback,” said Votto. “I don’t really care about how he plays or if he is the best player in the game. I’m impressed that he came back from all those concussion problems and that he is playing every day.
“That’s a testimony to how determined he was because there were stretches where he worried about not playing any more,” said Votto. “For him to just grind it out and get out there despite feeling the symptoms is really impressive to me.”
Somebody steered the conversation back to Canadian pride over the fact that he and Morneau and Larry Walker are Most Valuable Players.
Votto shook his head and stammered out an answer he didn’t appear too pleased to give, but said, “Uh, I mean, it certainly means a lot to us. Before Justin hurt himself he was one of the best first basemen in the game and, uh, I hope he gets back to that.”
Morneau won the AL MVP in 2009 when he hit .365 with 28 homers and 96 RBI. Votto won the NL MVP in 2010 when he hit .324 with 37 homers and 113 RBI.
So far in 2012, Votto is having another standard year — leading the league in batting average, walks, doubles, on-base percentage, average with runners in scoring position and slugging percentage.