It became something with which he was synonymous over the course of his Hall of Fame career with the Cincinnati Reds, but the first time Joey Votto stepped into the batter’s box to face St. Louis Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright he popped out meekly into short CF.
It was, by all accounts, a beautiful evening at Great American Ball Park. It was 72 degrees at first pitch for a night game in early April - April 7th, 2010 to be exact - though the Reds were surely still smarting from the beating laid on Nick Masset in the 9th inning the previous day’s 11-6 loss. Votto hit 3rd that day, as he was wont to do under manager Dusty Baker, batting per usual behind the leadoff CF (Drew Stubbs) and the day’s SS (Orlando Cabrera).
Wainwright, per usual, was pitching to catcher Yadier Molina that day. The defense behind him featured the likes of Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and the inimitable Skip Schumaker, while the Reds had ace Johnny Cueto on the mound backed by their star-studded infield of Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Hall of Famer Scott Rolen.
Those of us with gray hairs infiltrating our beards remember much about how the 2010 season shook out, from Votto’s race past Pujols to the National League MVP award to the epic brawl between these two clubs in early August. We’ve got Jay Bruce’s walkoff forever tattooed upon our hearts, the late Roy Halladay’s postseason exploits perpetuating in our melancholia. It was, in so many ways, the year that this particular website sprouted its first leaves above the surface, finally able to cover a team that bucked recent tradition and began to win games as if by design.
The three-game set between the Reds and Cardinals this weekend will be much different, obviously. The baker’s dozen of years that have come and gone since that first Votto/Wainwright matchup have seen the two clubs diverge in the most frustrating of ways, the Cardinals having won a World Series, claimed five NL Central titles, won more games than they lost in every single season save this one, and made the postseason nine times while the Reds...
Well, let’s not dive too deeply into those Reds right now.
These Reds, though, are much different. They are different in face, different in style, different in age and hype and aura from those that have spent the better part of the last 11 years frustrating us. The lone exception to that, of course, is one Joseph Daniel Votto, who has maintained as the one real connection to the last Reds club that stood mountainous over their division rival on the banks of the Mississippi.
So, it’s something of a personal frustration of mine that we’re not going to see Votto at all this series, the future Hall of Famer still shelved with an aching shoulder that caused him to go under the knife last fall. It’s also a bummer that we won’t see Wainwright, the team’s stalwart who’s plying his trade for the final time in what’s been an utterly forgettable season for him and his club - he started against the Atlanta Braves in Cobb County yesterday, getting one last outing in against the club that drafted him in the 1st round out of a Georgia high school some 23 years ago.
I’m sure Votto would love one more crack at Waino in GABP, seeing as he’s clubbed 5 homers off him in over the course of his career. Maybe, just maybe, the stars will align for the two in the final series of the season at Busch, at least, so us old folks will get a final chance to see the two square off in these uniforms somewhere. This weekend, though, it’ll be a Reds/Cardinals tussle that features entirely new faces occupying mostly foreign spots in the division standings, with the Reds doing everything they can to avoid having St. Louis play the role of season-spoiler.
This is not your parents’ Reds/Cardinals series. Really, this is not our Reds/Cardinals series. It’s a whole different ballgame out there this time.