Votto tips cap to former coach

BOB ELLIOTT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

Joey Votto took a deep sigh of satisfaction and sat on the dugout bench.

The former Etobicoke Rangers infielder had homered for a third time as his Cincinnati Reds were on the way throttling the Chicago Cubs 9-0 last Wednesday.

He was planning on soaking in the moment.

"Get out there," Ken Griffey told Votto, "go tip your cap to the fans."

So out Votto went.

All the Reds tend to listen when the future Hall of Famer speaks.

Votto doffed his cap and waved to the 28,814 fans, getting another ovation from the Great American Ball Park faithful, making it a truly great Canadian day at the park.

"I didn't know the protocol, the rules," Votto said from Cincinnati. "I've never had a three-homer game before. Probably my best was four homers in two games at (triple-A) Indianapolis, with a bunch of RBIs."

When he was hitting line drives at Etobicoke's Connorvale Park, Votto did some amazing things but didn't receive curtain calls. He might have been yelled at, along with other players, once by coach Bob Smyth for not putting away the rake or the watering hose after batting practice. Smyth's players learned the game and how to maintain the field.

And he just may have been yelled at for not chasing down a foul ball.

Symth has since moved to Ladysmith, B.C. After last season, Smyth received his former pupil's No. 19 Reds jersey, from Votto's time as a September callup, matted in a frame.

"I went to see him in October," said Toronto's best hitter, who has not forgotten his roots -- even if they have shifted west.

"I have to pull his leg to come see me play, I want him to come to Yankee Stadium before the season is over. I was with Bob for five years and I owe him a lot."

When Votto, who played a season with the Canadian Thunderbirds, visits the big park in the Bronx it will be his first time.

"I made a point to stay away from big-league parks as a fan or a minor-leaguer -- I wanted the true experience as a first-time player."

He says his favourite stadium on the road to date is Wrigley Field in Chicago.

"It's the best I've seen, fantastic," Votto said. "The fans are very knowledgeable."

The product of the Queensway, Bloordale and the Rangers programs will play in another major-league park for the first time when the Reds come to the Rogers Centre June 24-26. The middle game of the series will be Etobicoke Day.

"I don't really remember playing a game there, I did go to the SkyDome for a pre-draft workout," Votto said.

Ah yes, the draft. While scouts, scouting directors and general managers fell over each other chasing down the B.C. twin towers of Jeff Francis and Adam Loewen, only the New York Yankees and Reds were interested in Votto.

Reds scout John Castleberry chose Votto 44th overall in North America with their second-round pick and gave him a $600,000 US signing bonus.

"I watched a ton of Jays games on TV growing up," Votto said. "I liked Paul Molitor, Robbie Alomar, Dave Winfield and Carlos Delgado. But Alomar was my favourite, he could do everything."

Votto joined Larry Walker (three times) and Justin Morneau (once) as the only Canadians to homer three times in a single game. All three are left-handed hitters, of course. It's the Canadian way, whether it be from hockey or shovelling snow.

That day, Votto led off the second with a homer to right on a Jon Lieber slider, hit a 2-0 fastball off Sean Marshall to deep left centre in the fifth for a mammoth homer and an inning later, went deep off reliever Sean Gallagher to almost the same spot.

Last night, Votto hit his eighth homer of the year in a 5-3 win over the Florida Marlins. He has started 30 games at first for the Reds, hitting .288 with 20 RBIs.

The best pitcher Votto has faced?

"The most prestigious was Tom Glavine," Votto said. "He's a hall of famer, think I had a single."


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