Published On: Wed, May 16th, 2018

Richard Griffin: Joey Votto has nothing to apologize for

For 12 hours on Tuesday, Reds’ MVP first baseman and Etobicoke native Joey Votto was viewed by many fans as an ungrateful, unpatriotic Canadian who had forgotten his own roots, turning his back on the very people that supported him on his way to stardom. Then that evening he went and apologized. He needn’t have.

The coast-to-coast Votto feather-ruffling was the result of a Yahoo podcast interview conducted by respected American sports reporter Tim Brown. Votto had simply been asked if he shared the feel-good sentiments of Canadian fans as a result of the recent James Paxton no-hitter at the Rogers Centre against the Blue Jays on May 8.

Joey Votto is sorry for his incendiary interview on a Yahoo podcast.
Joey Votto is sorry for his incendiary interview on a Yahoo podcast.  (David Cooper / Toronto Star)

It was the first no-hitter by a Canadian-born pitcher on Canadian soil. Paxton, a native of Ladner B.C. was the second Canadian to throw a no-hitter and the first since Dick Fowler in 1945. It was a historic moment and fans at Rogers Centre stood in support of Paxton’s effort in the ninth inning because it was Canada and even though it was being done against their home team.

Read more:

Joey Votto apologizes after saying ‘I don’t care’ about Canadian baseball

Article Continued Below

Brown asked Votto the question if he shared any residual feel-good. Why? Canadians in the major leagues have always been seen from the outside as a tight-knit fraternity. Canadian major-leaguers of this generation usually share a common background and connection to the Baseball Canada program led by Greg Hamilton that over the past 20 years has been key in the development of elite young players helping place them in top-tier NCAA programs or positioning them in the draft.

“I don’t care almost at all about Canadian baseball,” Votto said on the podcast. “I wasn’t raised inside of Canadian baseball, really. I played on a local team, but as an 18-year-old I was drafted and I’m coming up on half of my life being in the United States working and being supported by American baseball.

“I’m happy for (Paxton) as a fellow player…but as far as Toronto and Canadian baseball and the country of Canada and him being Canadian, I don’t care at all. He or the Jays or Canada in general may disagree with that, but I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about that. I’m more happy for him as a player. That was a great moment. I’m not connected to Toronto so I don’t feel that sort of way about that. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be a Grinch about that.”

This was part of a longer interview during which he had criticized the Reds organization for placing this year’s team in a tough competitive position. He also spoke in praise of Ichiro and talked about being a Raptors season ticket holder. So it wasn’t just about his angst-ridden Canadianism.

It should be recalled Votto, 34, was never a part of Team Canada at the junior level and has had little contact, if any with the 29-year-old Paxton who has never played for Canada in the World Baseball Classic, while Votto played twice. Votto had a chance to be drafted by the Jays in ’02, but they passed him over in favour of shortstop Russ Adams from the University of North Carolina. How’d that work out?

The original question of whether Votto was happy for Paxton and emotional for Canada about the no-hitter, in context is like asking a player from Florida whether he was happy for a pitcher from California regarding his no-hitter because they both happen to be American. Votto is nothing if not bluntly honest.

The real question is would fans rather have a grateful Canadian or a great human. Votto has proven to be one of the most emotional, thoughtful, insightful players in baseball, which seems more important than standing on guard for thee.

Article Continued Below

He does give a rat’s ass. Though cut from the Junior team, he has played for his country twice in the WBC and has annually attended the January fund-raising banquet for Baseball Canada, contributing signed auction items every year.

As a player, Votto continues to practice his Spanish skills so he can better interact with teammates. And there’s the touching interaction on Aug. 31, 2017 with a young cancer patient at a Reds game.

Votto spoke to the boy in the seats behind home pate before winning the game with a home run. He then came back to offer his bat and his jersey. Votto visited the family in October when the youngster eventually passed away. There are numerous other human moments with fans that make Votto special.

He has won the Tip O’Neill Award seven times in the past nine years as Canada’s top baseball player. He returns to Toronto every off-season and works out in Etobicoke at the same facility he did as a teenager, sharing his experience and time with young players who watch him in awe. He’s still Joey from the block.

Taken aback by the negative reaction that his statements on the podcast engendered, Votto issued a thorough and heartfelt apology following the Reds game on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, Baseball Canada re-affirmed its support.

“Joey has been very supportive of the Canadian National Baseball program,” said Hamilton, Canada’s director, national teams. “He has shown through his actions a care for the next generation of Canadian baseball talent and has been very generous with both his time and financial commitment to the program.

“He is a really good person and we are proud to be associated with Joey on a personal and professional level and wish him nothing but the very best for continued success and happiness.”

Richard Griffin is a sports columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @rgriffinstar

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

TORONTO STAR

Leave a comment

Richard Griffin: Joey Votto has nothing to apologize for