Joey Votto is currently amidst the best season of his career – and that’s saying something. We’ve all already read about all the stats, categories and records he could break. We’ve all already experienced the torturous thoughts of the Votto Window and what might be beyond that Window. We’ve argued about whether or not we should move Votto to left field, trade him while we can for good prospects, or try to do the impossible and sign him to an extension. This obviously is now hindsight since Yonder Alonso has since departed and Votto signed his mega deal committing his services to the Queen City. We’ve read Mr. Charlie Scrabbles' take on What Joey Votto Means to the Reds, but what does it mean to a 17 year old kid?
My grandfather is a 92 year old WWII veteran that has been a Reds fan since he could remember. He married young right after the war and had three children – two boys and a girl. He was the mayor of Fort Mitchell back in the 1940s. He didn’t live the easiest life as a child as his parents were relatively poor. He was drafted into the air force during the War and his plane was shot down over the freezing waters overseas. After drifting for hours in the freezing water he was picked up from a ship, but his fellow soldiers didn’t have the same fate and were never found. A few years ago his wife passed away and in the last year he decided to move into a nursing home. He used to be as sharp as a knife, but his memory, eyesight and hearing have since worsened. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve heard his life stories over the years. He’ll ask, “Have I told you about so and so?” 99% of the time I respond with “Yes, grandpa.” But he doesn’t care and he tells his story anyway - and that’s completely fine. The stories that I find most interesting are the ones he tells about the old Redlegs. He could talk for hours about the players or going to the games that he could. He claims that he lived near Johnny Vander Meer when Vander Meer threw the infamous back to back no-hitters. He experienced the championships of the 1940 Reds, the Big Red Machine of the ‘70s, and the Nasty Boys in ’90. He saw greats like Ted Kluszewski and Frank Robinson. I could only hope to experience half of what my grandfather did in his life.
My father is 51 years old and is also a lifelong Cincinnati fan. He also didn’t have the easiest childhood, but made do and persevered. He went to Covington Latin and was in College at age 16. He’s been working at P&G ever since he was 20 years old. When he was a teenager the Big Red Machine was in full force in the middle of winning 2 World Championships in a row in the ‘70s. He experienced the career of Pete Rose and basked in the glory of hit 4,192 like the rest of the City. He watched Johnny Bench – his favorite player – dominate behind the plate and in the batter’s box. He saw Barry Larkin help win the 1990 World Series against the mighty Oakland A’s. He experienced the ups of Ken Griffey Jr. signing and the downs of all the injuries. In a few weeks he will too see Barry Larkin inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame like he saw many other Reds greats over the years. He was my baseball coach and mentor while I was doing it up in Little League (I played SS and batted .700. That’s right; I was the Troy Tulowiski of the league.). I soon diverged from the baseball diamond and became a competitive swimmer, but that’s another story.
I know that Larkin’s induction will means a lot more to him than it does to me because he saw the great plays and big hits. I was still a young whippersnapper at 9 years old (as my grandfather likes to say) when Larkin retired. I don’t remember watching a single live game while Larkin was the Captain (likely because I was living in New Orleans for most of my early childhood), which is why it will be just as cool to see my father’s face during the ceremony as it will be watching Larkin make his speech for me.
When the news came of the Joey Votto mega deal I didn’t have any words initially. I told my father and he too was ecstatic at first, but his reaction changed a little when the final numbers came out. The Griffey Jr. deal was still fresh in his mind. I was 5 years old when that deal was signed, which means I had little recollection of it. Joey Votto is the first superstar in a Reds uniform I will get to see for the entirety of his career. Joey Votto is to me what Pete Rose and Barry Larkin were to many. Joey Votto is the man my peers that follow baseball are depending on to let us experience that championship – the championship that no teenager that is a fan of Cincinnati sports has seen in their lifetime. I don’t care about the exorbitant amount of money, or the fact that we will be paying Joey millions when he is 40. This contract means that Joey Votto will be a Red at least until I am 29 years old. Joey Votto will be the man that I will tell stories to my children about as my father and grandfather does today. Joey Votto is the reasons I will have hope that every season will be a Championship season. My father could be right and the deal could be too long, but the thing is I don't care. Every fan deserves to have their own Joey Votto. If anybody in baseball deserved the kind of extension that was given, it’s Joey. I can only hope that Joey Votto lives up to our expectations and then some. My grandfather and father have never been to a World Series game and I can tell that is something that they regret. If the Reds do go to a World Series in the coming years, it will likely in large part be due to Joseph Daniel Votto. I will not have the same regrets and I will do whatever it takes to get my butt in one of those seats to cheer the Reds to victory – and I will make sure that my father and grandfather will be right next to me. Every teenager in Cincinnati that is a fan of the Reds now has their own star that they can tout as one of the best not only in Reds history, but maybe baseball history. The Reds may never even win a playoff game during Votto’s tenure in Cincinnati, but we can always dream of what could be.
The point is that Joey Votto is now a Red for life and my fellow peers no long have to worry about another superstar jumping ship. If Votto is inducted into the Hall of Fame, you can bet I will be watching. I don’t know how I will feel if it happens, but I’m sure it’ll be amazing. My generation of Reds fans now has their own Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, or Barry Larkin and that is simply something that you can’t put a price tag on.
To answer the question swiftly, Joey Votto means everything to me and my generation when it comes to baseball.