A delivery truck pulled down a quiet, residential street in Ladysmith, B.C., on Vancouver Island, roughly 50 miles north of Victoria on Friday afternoon.
The driver must know Bob Smyth by now.
Smyth opened the large package to find a replica of Joey Votto’s 2010 National League most valuable player award, shipped from Cincinnati by his former player.
When it comes to remembering those who helped him along the way, Votto has never forgotten former coaches — especially Smyth, his Etobicoke Indians coach. The Cincinnati Reds first baseman is as appreciative as Roy Halladay (towards former coach Bus Campbell) or Pat Hentgen (to scout Don Welke).
He has not forgotten his roots — even if Smyth has moved west.
“I thought it would be a good way for Bobby to understand how much of an impact he has had on my career,” said Votto from Cincinnati where he is attending Reds Fest.
Previously, Votto shipped the framed jersey from his debut game in the majors for the Reds in 2007, as well as the Team Canada jersey he wore at the Rogers Centre in 2009. This past summer, he flew Smyth to Toronto and paid his entry so he could participate in a Father’s Day golf tournament with Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith, Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, Phil Niekro and Goose Gossage at Cooperstown, N.Y.
How many ways can one say thank you?
Smyth received a series of emails recently after he picked Henry Andrulis — not former Florida Marlin Greg O’Halloran or Votto — as the best player he ever managed with Etobicoke. He also picked his all-time team with a batting order. Andrulis hit third, Votto fourth and O’Halloran fifth.
“Joey wasn’t a finished product then,” Smyth said. “O’Halloran and Votto achieved greater success but Henry had more power. He had faster hands than Dustin Pedroia and could run. He was absolutely the best I have ever coached.”
Votto had the trophy consigned in August (MVP winners are allowed to pay to have one additional trophy re-created) and then the first baseman added that he needed to remind Smyth “who his favorite player should be.”
Said Smyth: “The good thing about this is that all of these former players getting in touch with each other leading up to Christmas.”
Votto has heard the talk about how he is supposedly Toronto-bound, either today or the next day.
OneTwitter account has been named bringvottohome.
“I don’t put any credence into any speculation, although it’s entertaining and probably for many fans the most enjoyable part of following the game,” said Votto. “It doesn’t make sense for any ball player to keep up with it. The two people with the most say in my professional life are Mr. Bob Castellini (Reds president) and Walt Jocketty (GM), in that particular order.
“Both of them said I’m staying. I’m very happy and comforted by that. We touched on the playoffs a couple of years ago and I’d like to get back there, especially after seeing what our rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals did this year. I’d really like to get another crack at it.”
Votto will enter the second year of a three-year $38-million US deal in 2012 and is the Reds’ most popular player — at least if you go by uniform and jersey sales.
Our Steve Simmons, a man for all sports and all seasons, in discussing contenders for the Lou Marsh Trophy, which goes to Canada’s athlete of the year tossed around named like tennis star Milos Raonic, reliever John Axford, Edmonton Eskimos running back Jerome Messam, shot-putter Dylan Armstrong and the MLS MVP, Dwayne DeRosario.
And then Simmons asked: “Why not Votto?”
While he didn’t repeat his MVP season, Votto hit 29 home runs, drove in 103, led the league in walks plus on-base percentage and won his first Gold Glove.
“Georges St. Pierre could stand to win one,” Votto said of the mixed martial arts superstar. “I understand that some people do not see MMA as a sport, but I think he’s an outstanding athlete, one that deserves the honour of being chosen.”
St. Pierre has Votto’s endorsement.
But he’s not any replicas of his National League MVP trophy.