Just as he did years ago when he played for the Etobicoke Rangers, Votto The Swatto got to the ball park early yesterday. On this special day, however, Joey Votto didn't have to pick up the litter around the Rogers Centre, or help line the field.
In the big leagues, they have people for that.
However, the big time doesn't make those recollections of Connorvale Park any less sweet.
"I have so many fine memories of playing in that park. We'd all get there early, help clean up the park, chalk the lines," said Votto, who has all the makings of becoming the best major leaguer to come out of Toronto since Dr. Ron Taylor left Talbot Park behind on his way to two World Series rings.
Those days playing minor baseball in Etobicoke and, later, high school ball at Richview Collegiate, are long gone, as are the six seasons the 24-year-old Votto spent in the minor leagues, working his way up to be the starting first baseman with the Cincinnati Reds. After a 24-game audition last fall when he hit .321 with 17 RBI, Votto has claimed a starting job and brought a .293 batting average, 12 homers and 37 RBI to Toronto to face the Blue Jays.
Votto, batting fifth for the Reds last night, faced A.J. Burnett for his first professional at-bat in his hometown and milked Burnett for a walk.
Votto announced himself to the world on May 7 when he belted three home runs against the Cubs but his own personal moment of revelation came earlier, on April 12, in a game against the Pirates when he had three hits.
"I had been going through a little bit of a funk," Votto said.