He needed to pour so much into being an elite hitter, to be a perfect star, in the lonely process of being at his best baseball every single day, six months a year, for 16 big league seasons . Teammates and family saw the real Joey Votto. Everyone else just got glimpses here and there. It was safer that way.
But during the non-baseball moments of Cincinnati’s dismal 3-19 start, Votto has emerged as a superstar on social media in a sport not known for his great online personalities. The 38-year-old started TikTok, Instagram and Twitter narratives, channels glimpses of hilarity he delivers in interviews and games, to public posts and videos after years of trying not to give too much of himself away.
“I don’t think the average fan knows me very well, and that’s probably not a big priority for the average fan, but it feels a little important to me,” Votto said.
Votto’s posts are funny, self-ironic, revealing and surprising. He shows skills he learned in breakdance lessons that he took in the low season. He shares photos of his family, incorporates teammates into TikTok videos, and occasionally paints his entire body green – as people do. Lately, many of his posts have made fun of his stroke average.
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“I think it’s amazing. He shows his personality. A lot of people do not know, but it’s Joey,” said teammate Jonathan India, Votto’s locker neighbor, who said he has been dancing and joking in the clubhouse for years. , That Joey is a serious baseball guy – how he looks on TV. Nobody knows what he’s in here. But on his TikToks and Instagram, he lets out his personality. It’s amazing to see. ”
Votto has been an off-and-on YouTube and TikTok addict for years, fighting the urge to keep rolling, unable to stop watching. He always considered joining the fight, but he had to be sure he was ready.
No, Votto would not do any of this if he was not sure he would perform this year. He can predict these things now. He lost the joy of striking a few years ago when he prioritized contact over power – not making mistakes rather than making big swings. He is back to the big fluctuations now, at least when appropriate. He knows who he is.
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“In recent years I have been in doubt. Now I am in a place where I am very, very confident that I will play well. I understand the rhythm of what it takes to play well,” said he. “And now I can have fun outside of playing well.”
Late last month, he wrote, and then slept on, a tweet about how being in a recession is like “a maze,” leaving a person “trapped, alone, and disoriented.” He did not send that tweet immediately. He worried that people might think he was in some existential crisis, that he was “trapped, alone and disoriented”, instead of sharing an observation. Even if he was… yes, he is not. So he tweeted it.
The experience of being in a batting downturn is that it feels like a maze. One feels trapped, alone and disoriented. When you finally get out, you are relieved and can not believe how easy it was to find the way out. Unfortunately, that exit eventually leads to another maze.
– Joey Votto (@JoeyVotto) April 24, 2022
That confidence did not stop him from dropping half a dozen exclamations as he took early batting training alone one afternoon early last week, asking Red coaches to adjust his speed and spin speed with a few pitches – and refine his turn towards what he calls “spinny” fastballs, the kind he sees so often these days. Votto is not at a point in his career where he does not care when he fights. He is at a point in his career where he knows the fights will not last, so he does not let them engulf him.
“The level of achievement I expected of myself early in my career required a real dedication – mind, body and spirit. No social life,” said Votto. “It burns you out. “Cow, this takes up 85 percent of your year with training. I’d better have fun.”
“And this is fun,” Votto continued. “Socially is fun for me – as long as I uphold the principles of respect, boundaries, treat everyone fairly, take care of my P’s and Q’s.”
Votto is careful with these Ps and Qs. He has hired everyone from PR staff to journalists to teammates to advise him on the wording of tweets or music choices for TikToks.
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Capture a gun click at the beginning of a song? It’s out – kids might hear it. Could a tweet a little, possibly suggest something negative about someone? That tweet dies in the Notes app. When some took issue with a TikTok video of Votto copying a dance from a Doja Cat video while wearing a Ron Weasley costume, he deleted it. What’s clear about talking to Votto is that he does not mind if people do not like him. But he wants to make sure that if they do not like him, it is for the right reasons – whatever they are.
So what he does is so carefully composed with such high production value that even PR staff from other teams marvel at his performance. From dance sequences that require employees to perform together, to Instagram posts that present his family or tell that he received his U.S. citizenship out of season, Votto opens doors he wants to open – whether they are silly, serious , sentimental or something in between.
“I’m getting so tired of isolation that the communities that matter to me, I have to keep feeding them,” he said.
Votto has spent nearly two sometimes isolating decades of his life trying to be an admirable representative of the Reds, never going so far as to avoid mischief, but knowing exactly where he wanted to draw the line. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t lost control every now and then, like when he exploded on home plate referee Bill Welke after being ousted from a 2015 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
But after that match, he left the clubhouse and went towards the referees’ locker room, the kind of stay that some players could take to complete their points. Votto had another idea and assured cautious Reds staff that he was on his way to apologize. When he confronted a fan who got in the way of a foul ball the next year, he also apologized to that person.
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And yet, after all that care, it was just a few weeks ago that Votto saw Reds owner Phil Castellini readily declare that fans frustrated by the team’s lack of payroll had nowhere else to go. It was just a few months ago that he saw his front office swap Eugenio Suárez and Jesse Winker away – two of the 29 people he follows on Instagram – to cut salaries. Votto has played in two division series in his career – all the way back in 2010 and 2012. After everything he has done to ensure he does not fail the Reds, have they then returned?
Votto’s eyes widened when he was asked the question, someone like him would rather answer after some workshops in the Notes app. Next year is the final guaranteed season on the $ 225 million 10-year extension that made him the highest paid player in franchise history. This is the only team he has ever known.
“I will always be with a team that is on its way to the playoffs and beyond. I can say no more than that, ”said Votto, pausing between each sentence and choosing each word with audible care. “I signed a long contract 10 years ago and I knew there would be ups and downs. I knew it would not be all playoffs and winning seasons. But that does not make it any less frustrating when we play badly. ”
The Reds are playing badly now. And Votto is fighting too. So he was on the field before anyone else one day last week, running from first to third, swinging in the cage, diving for groundballs until his sweat was covered in clay in the field.
When he was finally done, Votto gathered his bats and hurried down the excavated stairs.
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“I have to go TWEET,” Votto said with bright eyes, emphasizing the last word, as if he dared someone to tell him not to do it.
“Be careful!” longtime Reds PR man Rob Butcher said. “It’s dangerous out there!”
Votto’s voice echoed back up the tunnel to Red’s clubhouse.
“I knowwww,” he groaned, as if the risk of becoming a social media star had risen again in his mind as a formidable challenger to the reward. He disappeared into the relative privacy of the clubhouse. There he can write and go back and write again in the security of his Notes app, work on the workshop, weigh the pros and cons – in the hope that it’s him, the right version of him, the world sees when he decides to press “Send”.