TORONTO - Larry Walker always looked at a glass as being overflowing.
Especially if the glass had a crest of a Canadian flag on it.
So, when Etobicoke’s Joey Votto became only the third Canuck to win a Most Valuable Player award, Walker turned to his wife Angela and said:
“Honey, we’re taking over, another great hope from the great white North just won the MVP, we’re taking over the world.”
Votto received 31 of 32 first-place votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America to win the National League MVP honours Monday over two-time defending champ Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Not bad for a good Canadian boy who needed a “Vote Votto” campaign to make the all-star game, as 14 million fans responded.
The Cincinnati Reds first baseman joins Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins and Walker as the only Canadians to win MVP honour in the majors.
In the 85 years between 1911, when awards were first handed out, and 1996, Fergie Jenkins was the only Canadian to win a BBWAA honour.
Votto is the fifth since 1997, along with Eric Gagne, Jason Bay, Walker and Morneau.
Votto battled depression and anxiety issues in 2009 resulting from his father’s death a year earlier.
“Not to be dramatic,” Votto told reporters on a conference call, “but after I was told I’d won, I couldn’t help but cry because I know how much something like this means to me and would have meant to my father. It’s pretty much the pinnacle of all of the awards, a great moment.
“With what I went through in the past, I have overcome a lot.”
Votto’s father, also named Joe, was a dedicated pop fretting over his son’s early fortunes on the diamond at Connorvale Park with Bob Smyth’s Etobicoke Rangers or Mel Oswald’s Canadian Thunderbirds.
“It’s pretty frigging awesome to beat Albert Pujols,” Votto said. “I was shocked it was so conclusive.”
Votto finished 2010 among the leaders in offence in the National League. His .324 average was second. He placed third in both homers (37) and RBIs (113). Votto led in OPS at 1.024 and slugging percentage (.600).
“I followed the footsteps of a lot of great Canadians like Morneau, Walker and Bay. When guys who have achieved before you set a bar you want to reach it. Larry was that.”
Walker was the hitting coach for Canada during the 2009 World Baseball Classic at the Rogers Centre.
“He had your typical sweet, left-handed swing,” Walker said Monday. “He could hit. That was obvious. My only thing was could he put it all together? He was so hard on himself when he’d go into the cage, with so many questions and doubts. He’d beat himself up after a bad round.”
Walker said he was the same as a young player.
“Joey probably had the typical ‘nut-job like mentality’ like me. We get it from hockey: You’re going into the corner, you know you’re going to take a hit. But go 24 at-bats with two hits, it can be tough. He was able to figure it out.”
Votto, who in 2008 started more games that any Toronto-born player had ever played, will no doubt cause an increase in interest on area sandlots.
“Hopefully I can achieve that in Toronto, where we don’t have a ton of talent in the majors,” Votto said. “Maybe I can be a part of that. Show that ‘You can do it, You can get here.’
“I know Walker, Morneau impacted young Canadians on the west coast. Hopefully, myself and Russell Martin can make an impact back east.”
Votto is a special hitter, a special man.
Working out at The Baseball Zone in Mississauga when it opened, he asked Mike McCarthy, whose background was banking, for a couple of balls. McCarthy gave him two. Votto walked away and came back to say “Sir, you don’t really know a lot about baseball do you, I was looking for a couple of buckets of balls.”
McCarthy calls him “the most polite guy we’ve had walk through the doors.”
When Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News retired at the end of the 2009 season, Votto said “I WANT TO SEE YOU after batting practice.”
Now, when a writer hears that, it usually means trouble.
They entered the clubhouse and Votto gave McCoy a box of his favorite imported cigars, saying “don’t you write that. Ever.”
Said McCoy on the weekend “All bets are off if he wins the MVP.”
“Kids trying to make it see Votto on TV, he’ll create a boost,” said Walker. “Even if he hadn’t won, Joey Votto is someone kids should look up to regardless.”