“Scott Thorman was the phantom I was chasing, drafted 27th overall, received $1.2-million US signing bonus ... I think.”
Thorman was selected 30th overall from Team Ontario — eight picks ahead of Blue Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson. The Cambridge native was given a $1.225-million bonus by Dayton Moore, then the Atlanta Braves scouting director in 2000 and now general manager of the Kansas City Royals.
Votto was a year younger, but wasn’t drafted the next summer.
“When I was with the Canadian Thunderbirds we practised at the Frozen Ropes facility in Guelph,” Votto said. “Thorman was hitting off a tee. His swing was so powerful, so effortless, I was too intimidated to go over and introduce myself.
“Years later we played on the same team. He’s a sweetheart of a guy.”
John Castlebury of the Reds selected Votto 60th overall with Cincinnati’s second-round pick in 2002 when Votto was in grade 13.
And this year GM Walt Jocketty made Votto Canada’s first $200-million athlete, signing him to a 10-year contract extension worth $225 million. It begins in 2014 and carries an option for 2024.
While Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels and Prince Fielder of the Detroit Tigers signed 10-year deals, they struggled, especially Pujols when the season began.
Votto is hitting .348 with an NL-high 35 doubles, 14 homers, 48 RBIs and a 1.087 OPS.
Some say he’s the best in the game.
“I aspire to being the best and take pride in my game, I saw Albert do it for a long, long time,” Votto said. “You need to be an elite defender, run the bases. Usually it’s guys up the middle — shortstops, centre fielders — who are called the best.
“I have things to work on. I’m always refining at the plate. I give away an occasional at-bat, swinging at a bad pitch. Even if it is one bad AB in 50, it’s one too many.”
Votto said how Pujols treats every at-bat as if it’s the last of his career.
“Walking to the plate I’ll ask myself: ‘are you ready?’ ” Votto said.
Votto showed his Etobicoke sense of humour a number of times:
• A Pittsburgh TV station asked how Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutcheon has grown in stature. “A statue? They built a statue for him? Andrew and Willie Stargell?”
• A Washington radio asked about Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond. “I’m happy he’s doing so well, he’s a good friend, we live 20 minutes from each other near Sarasota. I hope he earns some money so he can finally pick up a dinner. Like I told our neighbour Josh Roenicke (pitching in the Colorado Rockies bullpen) you’re going to get out of triple-A and buy a second car. I’m tired of picking you up all the time.”
• A Japanese TV crew asked Votto which current all-star he’d like to go for dinner with. “Some guys here I know, but I’d rather go to eat with someone I’ve never met before, like George Brett or Barry Bonds.”
• FUSE radio asked Votto his favourite type of music? “I prefer it quiet,” said Votto. “Why’s that?” asked the radio guy. “I prefer it quiet.”
• An MLB.com reporter asked what one thing Votto couldn’t do. “I can’t skate or play hockey,” Votto said. “Well, I can skate ... but I can’t stop.”
• Is he for or against instant replays? “I don’t mind the home run replay, but anything else ... I’m not a fan. The umps do a good job, if there are mistakes they are on both side. Besides more replays would make us all late for dinner reservations.”