Votto at 2011 All-Star Game practice. (Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE)

Votto Occupied Alliance on Joseph Daniel Votto

It’s not every day that we find gems. Some are rare and some are rarer than others. This fits in the last category. BRM readers may be fondly aware of the #VottoOccupiedAlliance or if you follow “them” on Twitter, @VottoOccupied. If anything in the Twitterverse is Votto related, they pick up on it and let all of the great Reds fans know of its existence.

When I was contacted by one of the members about the opportunity to express their opinion of Votto, I didn’t hesitate one bit to let the Alliance have this platform. I hold both ladies in high regard as Reds fans. While a game is in progress, there is rarely a tweet between them that is not Reds related. Call it an obsession if you will, but I’ll just call them for what they are…great Reds fans.

If they do have an obsession, it’s with #19…as you will soon see.

Potent QUOTEables for 225 million, Alex

The timing on writing this post is nothing more than pure happenstance. The epic events at the plate last weekend with Joey Votto merely provided us with the stimulant in which to finally write this post that we have been thinking about for a few weeks. Here at the Votto Occupied Alliance, we have been watching Joey Votto during the first month of baseball with a healthy dose of optimism and renewed passion for the game! It has now been 46 days since the Reds and he signed the contract that rocked MLB. It was clear from the very time of the extension announcement that both GM Walt Jocketty and Reds President & CEO Bob Castellini both believe in Votto as evidenced in their statements about him:

Credit: Heather Knitz

“We recognize the historical significance of this signing,” said General Manager Walt Jocketty. “Ownership has committed to Joey, and we anticipate that he will continue to be one of the best players in baseball for the next decade or so/ He wants to stay here, and we want him here. We have shown we are committed to building a solid foundation from within the organization.”

Added team President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Castellini, “Joey not only is one of the game’s best players, but on the field and in the community he represents himself, the organization and our city with extraordinary professionalism and dignity. We certainly are proud to be able to keep him in Cincinnati for 12 more years.”

What we wondered here at the VOA was this: How will Joey Votto respond to having a long term deal? And, will Votto continue life as a baseball recluse? Truth be told, if you weren’t paying attention closely, you may have missed some of the crumbs Votto has been dropping for us…In isolation they may seem like trivial comments. Put together, they paint a picture of a budding leader for professional baseball.

April 4th: It was only a matter of hours before we had our first crumb from Votto, himself:

“I can’t promise you anything going forward,” said Votto during a Wednesday press conference. “I can’t promise health and I can’t promise production or anything like that. I can promise you I’m going to try and do my best. I’ve worked my tail off to get to this point.” – source: ESPN

This was merely Votto doing what Votto does best. He doesn’t gloat. He doesn’t boast. He talks in simple terms. He promises us one simple thing: He will give us his best. We call that dedication and commitment. And the key is that Votto backs up what he says with action. His workout regime is unrivaled, his practice and grit proves he practices what he preaches.

April 15th: Our next crumb came a week and a half into the season when the reds batters were clearly struggling at the plate. Our SP’s were getting no run support and vigilantes on social media outlets were already actively calling for the firings of the manager and hitting coach. This time, we saw the witty Joey Votto and the birth of ‘Cincinnatitude’:

Was DC the birthplace of Cincinnatitude? It sure was and Votto lit the torch. (Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE)

“They showed a lot of ‘Nat-itude’ the first three games, we showed some ‘Cinci-natitude’ in the last game…” – source: Local12

Who knew Joey Votto had humor in his arsenal? Yet another surprise the last month has brought us and an important characteristic to exhibit from time to time. For those of us who have thought Votto looked uncomfortable in interviews, that flash of humor sparkled like a jewel, and we’re ready to see more of it. And although he’s never seemed to really relish (from a public perspective) that publicity aspect of his job, we hear from the Reds Rob Butcher in an article published in a Toronto newspaper earlier this year that Votto always checks in with him to see if he’s needed after a game.

April 16th: Votto comments on the Reds rivalry with the Cardinals:

“I don’t think the Cardinals see us at their level,” Votto said. “I think they have a high level of confidence. I think they just see us as a stop along the way and not a real head-to-head challenge. I don’t think we have earned that yet. It really is what it is. They are the world champions. They’re the team that came back and had a great playoff run. They have a swagger about them that the only people they care about is who they see as the best team in the National League. I don’t think they care about us. I respect that. If a team that came in third place was trying to fool with us and we had just won the World Series, we’d be like, ‘Who cares?'” – source: MLB.com

I think this caught a lot of people off guard and yet his non-judgmental observations here are spot on. It is a humble analysis of exactly where the rivalry and two teams are at. No excuses, no justifications…Unlike a lot of professional athletes or other celebrities, Votto doesn’t have volumes of quotes or tweets or interviews that outline trivialities, so when he makes a statement like the above, you tend to take notice.

April 18: Votto learning Spanish to communicate with teammates.

“I was getting tired of running into situations when I couldn’t communicate with my teammates,” he says. “I’d like to befriend some of my teammates and become a better teammate in general. I think speaking the same language and understanding their perspective would help a lot.” – source: SportingNews.com

Votto taking the initiative to learn Spanish illustrates his desire to create the sense of a true camaraderie. He has long since spoken about the role of his ‘teammates’ in his own success. Just another indication that he understands that he is in the position to help and to reach out to others. Communication on a team is as vital as any other component of talent and practice, and Votto taking the step to learn another language reinforces his role on the team beyond being a singular superstar. He is a teammate. Many teams have superstar players, but Votto seems to understand that a teammate is more than just that.

April 23rd: After the series with the Cubs, Votto speaks about his team observations.

“We had a lot of games where we came up short and played extra innings,” Joey Votto said. “To come into Chicago where we’ve had a lot of trouble in the past it seems and win the series, hopefully this gives us momentum going home.”

Votto had Drew's back. (Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE)

“The offense, despite the struggles with runners on Sunday, has begun to come around. That was inevitable,” Votto said. “We don’t have a group of .200 hitters. We’ve got a group of professional hitters who have very good track records. It’s good to see Drew (Stubbs) swing the bat better.” – source: Cincinnati.com

This was such an important moment for Votto. Clearly, this was a comment directed to a specific teammate. Stubbs had been struggling with strike outs again yet Votto was quietly encouraging and nurturing his teammate along by being the loyal teammate he is. Stubbs has been at the receiving end of, how shall we say, less than positive reinforcement at times when he has had offensive struggles. Votto pointing out positive movement by him was significant.

April 29: Votto speaks with additional and somewhat uncharacteristic comments on the offensive ‘slump’:

“The way we started was really ugly. I think it was a shock to everybody in the clubhouse. It was kind of humbling. It was a good thing. I’m a firm believer that you don’t want to start off slow but there is nothing wrong with starting off slow. It keeps you in check and makes you work a little harder and concentrate on the fundamentals of the game. Those are what will carry you throughout the middle of summer and the end of the year.” -Joey Votto on the .500 month.

“Those things are what will carry you through the end of the year. Having a losing record early is a good thing, especially for a younger club like ourselves,” Votto added. source: Springfield News Sun

Votto doesn’t hide from well documented struggles at this point. Rather he communicates clearly and concisely where the team is at and why there is no reason to panic. He is objective, matter of fact and points out what will undoubtedly happen if they keep working hard and sticking to the fundamentals of the game. Votto himself is not going to give up. Rather, he is going to study (like a scientist) what is not working for himself and try to fix it. Leading by example is another key element of a team leader for this team.

April 29 on his own offensive ‘struggles’:

“I’m still working on finding my swing,” Votto said. “It’s been a little bit difficult so far this year. Finding the barrel has been kind of been fewer and far between, so hopefully I’m headed in the right direction.”

“I’ve been super hot with the results compared to where I am mechanically in my swing, which isn’t good,” he said. “Unless I make an adjustment, there is only one place to go from here for me and that’s down. But I am making an adjustment.” source: Springfield News Sun

Perhaps the most important crumb is the one he drops about himself, with regard to his own performance or lack thereof. He is never satisfied; very ‘Pete Rose like’ in that respect. He faces his own issues and has an obvious commitment to solving them. All anyone has to do is watch Votto strike out, or fly out at an important at-bat, with runners in scoring position. Votto seems to berate himself, and seems angry that he missed that opportunity…even if he just hit a home run at the last at bat. He appears to be his own worst critic, and that alone prevents him from falling into a lull that is not self-reflective and dedicated to growth.

Until this point, Votto, while being the MVP and All-Star that he was and is, hasn’t widely been considered a “leader” from the public’s perspective on the team. That role has been filled by others, and at times, by none. However, Votto brings the level of credibility and now more of the vocal role to put the label of leader closer to being attached to his name. With other dynamics shifting on the team, including the recent move of Scott Rolen to the DL, will Votto step more firmly into the role? Rolen brought a sense of stability and leadership to the team when he arrived a few seasons ago, which at the time was nearly as important as his playing skills. In the last year of his contract, and possibly his career, the team stands in need of a clear transition plan now.

We suspect that as Votto continues to settle into the city and defines his own role on the team that he will continue to step slowly out of his shell, little by little. The crumbs discussed in this post, for us at least, paint a picture of a young man who is emerging as a leader. He is not the boisterous and outspoken Patton-esque leader, rather, he is far more reminiscent of Robert E. Lee; reserved, modest, altruistic, loyal and extremely disciplined. Just since signing his contract, he is showing us several leadership characteristics: humility, leading, loyalty, observant, problem solving, never completely satisfied, communicates clearly and concisely, and humor. Votto, by all accounts, appears to be on his way to a long-term, superstar career in baseball, yet you never feel with him that he has any sort of prima donna attitude. His message seems consistent – work hard and never give up.

Not a bad message for any of us. It will be interesting to watch him for the next 12 years.

The #VottoOccupiedAlliance is an informal group of Reds and Joey Votto fans that originally united to advocate for a long term, Joey Votto, contract extension. Now that the deal has been completed, we remain together to celebrate our favorite player in MLB, Joey Votto. The VOA tweets under @VottoOccupied. The two ‘pseudo-brains’ behind the alliance are @HeatherKnitz and @KaseyBeckham.

We wish to thank Steve Engbloom and @BlogRedMachine for allowing us to have this platform in which to express our thoughts and observations!

Ladies, thanks isn’t necessary. Glad BRM could help VOA get even more takes on Votto out onto the interwebs.

Tags: Baseball Cincinnati Reds Joey Votto MLB

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