April 29, 2021

The Extremely Varied And Never-Dull Life Of Joey Moppo

I've read a few things about Joey Votto over the years. He seems like an interesting guy. He studies hitting obsessively. He once traded his jersey for a "Votto For President" t-shirt he saw a fan wearing. And he's Canadian (Toronto-born in the fall of 1983); he once did an interview dressed up as a Mountie.

The Athletic ran an oral history of sorts a couple of weeks ago, in which they contacted 14 of Votto's former teammates and a few others who played against him. The article was amazing, entertaining and funny. Votto is not only an interesting guy, he's possessed of a fascinating and curious mind. He's intelligent, goofy, clever, impish, and (although no one says this directly) clearly does not care a whit what anyone thinks of him.

Votto showed up for spring training in 2018 after a winter in which his goal was to get fatter:

I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing, and I am fatter. . . . Hopefully it pays off.

I agree with The Athletic commenter who said he'd gladly consume an entire book of these recollections. And I fully agree with another commenter, who stated: "Not only do I not understand anyone who bad-mouths Votto, I do not understand anyone who doesn't absolutely love Votto."

A sampling:

Scooter Gennett, infielder: One day Kyle Lohse was pitching, and he had some tighter pants on, and Joey had some tighter pants on that day. And he was like, "Hey, whose pants are tighter?" I was just like, "What?" I gotta answer the question. It's Joey Votto. And I'm like, "Yours, Joey. You look way better, too." He was like, "Nice!"

Zack Cozart, shortstop: Guys would get on second base and be like, "Man, what's Joey talking about?" He literally will ask questions about the other team and stuff like, "Who's the coolest guy on your team?"

Brandon Hyde, Cubs first base coach: Those conversations would be about the game, our team, his team, politics, Canadian government, the difference between U.S. and Canada.

Stephen Piscotty, outfielder: It was a longer at-bat. He didn't say anything initially and then midway through the at-bat he just kind of looked at me and goes, "You went to Stanford, right? You're an engineer?" I was like, "I mean, yeah, I'm surprised you would know that." He was like, "OK, so if you're an engineer, have you ever applied your engineering skills to hitting and how you think about it?" I was like, "Wow, that's an interesting question."

Chris Dickerson, outfielder: When he got into watches, he went to Europe and he wanted to understand the process of making a watch. When he got into cars, he knew about all the different components, V8, all the different drive modes, whether it was a mid-rear mounted engine or a rear-rear. . . . It's always really fascinating to simply watch Joey grow.

Jay Bruce, outfielder: He reads medical journals. Absolutely.

Dickerson: He's into [Aldous] Huxley. That's one of our things.

Carlos Guevara, pitcher: Every offseason, he decides he's going to do something. This offseason it was chess, and he goes all-in on it. . . . One offseason he made a bet with Aroldis [Chapman] over who would speak better Spanish or English, and Joey the next day is ordering Rosetta Stone. I thought, "This guy's going to speak better Spanish than me in a year." And sure enough he's correcting me on my Spanish.

Dickerson: He started doing improv classes in L.A. because he thought it would be a better way to speak to his teammates in an engaging manner. I thought that was so fascinating.

Jonny Gomes, outfielder: I've seen Joey Votto literally plan out like a month in advance. Days he's gonna hit homers. Big games. You talk about Babe Ruth called his shot one time. I've seen Joey do it 10 to 15 times. . . . He'd be like, "All right, I'm probably gonna walk four times today." Or in spring training he's like, "I'm gonna foul off as many pitches as I can today." I'm like, "What?" Sure enough …

Hyde: Joey was off to a rough start. He lined out and then I ran to first base. … He calls me over and says, "Hyder, I'm this close to being locked in." I'm like, "Really?" He was hitting under .200 at the time and struggling. . . . Well, he proceeded to get on base nine times in a row after that. It was like homer, double, homer. So he calls me over five at-bats later, probably the next day, and says, "Told you."

Skip Schumaker, outfielder-infielder: He had a chart of the hot-cold zones of every umpire. I'd never seen that before.

Dickerson: Joey Votto loves to mop, he loves to mop his house so much to the point where we tried to convince him to make him create an Instagram account called Joey Moppo and it would just be Joey mopping the floor. . . . He'll send me random videos of him mopping the house while he's listening to Kendrick Lamar. . . .

Guevara: My birthday is in the middle of spring training and we're dragging ass just walking in at 7:15 in the morning to the clubhouse and there I have a full bouquet of flowers and a gigantic Easter bunny. I'm like, "What in the fuck? Did my mom send this? Are you kidding me?" Everyone's looking at me. And Joey had sent me a giant bouquet and a gigantic chocolate Easter bunny for 100 minor-league campers to see. I was like, "You son of a bitch."

Bronson Arroyo (Saturn Nuts!) could probably contribute an entire chapter to this mythical Joey Votto book:

I got him out for two parties. One time, we went out in Arizona. Another time, I brought him on a boat party. And both times, he absolutely shocked everybody there by being the one guy who was dancing all night. I mean, he was like ballroom dancing with girls on my boat. Bro. Yes. Ballroom dancing, dude. Next to the stripper poles. . . .

I would say, "Joey, do you ever sign for those kids sitting outside the clubhouse when you drive out of the parking lot?" He goes, "You mean those people waiting out there on the left?" I'm like, "Yeah." He goes, "What if one of those fuckers stabbed me with a needle with tuberculosis in it?" . . .

After the last game I ever played in coming back from Chicago, he breaks out on the bus, with his suit on, karaoke. He puts on James Blunt's "Goodbye My Lover," and he sang that shit word for word. The whole thing. . . . Everybody was laughing, but also not really understanding that Joey is just giving an homage to me in the weirdest of ways. Did I disappoint you? Or let you down? It was like, "There it is. There is Joey Votto right there."

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