By Hal McCoy
When somebody says somebody is willing to give the shirt off his or her back, they are being apocryphal, it is just a figure of speech.
That isn’t the case with Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto and he proved it Wednesday night in Atlanta’s Truist Park.
After the game, Votto walked to the seats near the Reds dugout, shrugged off his number 19 jersey and handed it to a woman.
And it wasn’t because Votto wanted to rid himself of the jersey because the Reds lost in 11 innings, 8-6, on Ozzie Albies three-run home run that landed in the Chop House steakhouse in deep right.
No, it was a gift of appreciation.
While the game was in progress, after each of two home runs, Votto stopped near the woman and gave her high-fives.
“She kept calling everything I did before I did it,” said Votto. “Singles, walks, home runs. She kept calling them. We made an agreement before every at bat, and I talk to her a little at mid-at bat. She was screaming at me, supporting me.
“She was incredibly supportive despite a lots of people (Braves fans) that were not on her side,” said Votto. “We did it together. She was great, she was just great.”
Asked if the women predicted his ninth-inning home run against Atlanta closer Will Smith that tied the game, 5-5, Votto said, “She did. Yes, she did. I got a pitch I could put in play and had a good swing. It was an enjoyable at bat, short, but enjoyable for sure. Will Smith is tough, very tough. He has dominated me in our past encounters.”
Calling Votto home runs these days is not that difficult. He seems to do it every other at bat, 14 in the last 20 games after his two Wednesday.
After a few years of sub-Votto numbers, fans considered his puffy contract a team albatross, a 10-year $225 million deal.
They thought that at age 37, Votto could not put up numbers worth $25 million a year.
Suddenly, though, Votto has changed his game, changed his approach, tipping over the sands in the hourglass and returning to his 2010 MVP season.
That year he hit 37 home runs, 36 doubles and drove in 113 runs.
Now it is 2021 and Votto has lifted the entire team on to his broad back and lugged it to whatever success it achieves. He leads the team with 25 home runs and lead in RBI with 72. What is surprising is the power surge.
“It was a different game when I was younger,” he said. “You had to get hits all over the field and there were styles of pitchers that would soften power. Now you have to answer with power and I’ve finally caught up with the league.”
For a long time, Votto was stubborn about it, content to take walks and punch the ball from foul line to foul line. While he still goes the other way at times for a double and a few home runs, most of his hits these days are pulled hard to right field.
“I’ve always had this power, I just wasn’t understanding that I needed to take advantage of it,” he added.
Reds manager David Bell has had a dugout-side seat to Votto’s near nightly power show. It was Bell who late last season gave Votto three days off, “Just to give him some rest.” Votto, though, called it a benching, a wake-up call, and has been tearing it up ever since.
“I’m not surprised with what he is doing, but it is definitely appreciated,” said Bell. “I respect it and like everyone else it is fun watching it, It is amazing. He is a great hitter. And it is nice to see him enjoying himself.
“I probably could have other things to say, but it is just something to appreciate and enjoy as we watch it happen.”
And one lady who now owns a game-worn Joey Votto jersey appreciates it even more.