* Cincinnati Reds 1B Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) goes deep against the Chicago Cubs at Wriglet Field this week. .... 2013 Canadian draft list 2014 Canadian draft list 2013 Canadians in the Minors 2013 Canadians in College Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
CHICAGO _ They were like 100s of other couples in love on Michigan Ave.
They sat inside the Oak Tree Restaurant & Bakery at a window table Tuesday afternoon, six stories above the hustle and bustle below.
And they talked over salads.
Like the night one off-season Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto -- Canada’s highest-paid athlete -- and his girlfriend Jeanne Paulus went to Miami for a concert headlined by Jay Z and Kanye West.
Votto’s agent set up back-stage passes for the two of them and they arrived 90 minutes before the start.
Beyoncé was there.
Hoop stars like the Miami Heat's LeBron James and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder were in the house.
New York Yankees lefty CC Sabathia arrived later,
Votto, who grew up listening to “rap and all music,” introduced himself to Jay Z by name, adding ‘I’m a baseball player.’”
“Jay Z said ‘I know who you are,’” Votto said.
At the concert Votto took a bathroom break. Jay Z told Paulus her boyfriend was “sweet.”
That’s not the same word Etobicoke Rangers coach Bob Smyth used to call Votto when he was working out four hours a day at Smyth’s indoor training facility or chasing foul balls at Connorvale.
His swing? Now, that was sweet.
“Jay Z asked how long we’d been going out and I said since 2005,” Paulus said. “He laughed and said ‘I went out with Bee for 10 years before we got married.”
Votto laughed, saying “Jay Z is my hero.”
After the concert, they drove back to their Sarasota, Fla. home.
Votto hit a two-run homer Tuesday night to left and singled again off Matt Garza to lead-off the six-run, sixth in a 12-2 Cincinnati win over the Cubs.
The two-hit game, which included his 11th homer, lifted Votto’s average to .328 and his OPS to .986.
The last time we saw Votto was at Citi Field days after he’d gone 4-for-4 with a homer and two walks ... becoming the fourth player in the Reds history to homer and reach base six times, along with Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, Pete Rose and Sean Casey.
This visit came after he’d charged a roller and flipped the ball behind his back to right-hander Mat Latos covering first in a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.
“I felt bad,” said Votto. “It looked like I was showboating, which I wasn’t. It was the only chance I had.”
Votto charged the Matt Carpenter roller and made a behind-the-back flip to Latos, who caught it barehanded for the out, ending in the seventh.
Saying he’s never ever once practised on the behind-the-back, no-look pass in practice,
“St. Louis plays a style of play where I wouldn’t the play to be taken as making fun. (Manager) Mike Matheny is old school, I didn’t smile. I knew cameras would be on me.
“But when you are going forward full speed, behind the back is an easier play. It was strictly instinct.”
The cameras were on Votto a lot, as usual, as he doubled twice Saturday.
Second baseman Brandon Phillips had an error Monday and said he’d wished he’s gone behind the back according to Votto,
Injured July 15, Votto had knee surgery, missed 50 games, returning Sept. 5. He was unable to generate any power last fall and in post-season play as the San Francisco Giants came into Great American Ballpark and swept the Reds.
After going homerless in 127 plate appearances, with 32 walks, his power is back.
Votto says the longer he plays -- a second round pick by the Reds on June 4, 2002, who signed less than 15 hours later by scout John Castleberry -- the “simpler the game gets.”
“Things can get so convoluted, I try to stick to the basics,” said Votto, who thinks he has a similar swing to Wade Boggs.
“Boggs was a high walk guy who hit for average,” he says. “I’m a high walk guy with a little more power and not as much average.”
Votto knows the web site baseball-reference well. If he’s struggling he looks at it for perspective and usually finds out he’s not far off where he was other years.
“I look at it to compete too, I compete with the other hitters,” Votto said. “I used to compete with Albert Pujols. Now he’s on the coast. For a decade Albert was the best hitter in the game.”
Pujols left the St. Louis Cardinals as a free agent to sign with the Los Angeles Angels.
Votto, a former National League MVP, Hank Aaron award winner and four-time NL on-base percentage champ (“some guys on our club tease that my strike zone is smaller”) the folks at baseball-reference compare Votto to Matt Holliday, Mo Vaughn, Jeff Bagwell, David Ortiz, Lance Berkman, Wally Berger, Zeke Bonura, former Blue Jay Carlos Delgado, Tim Salmon and Adrian Gonzalez at age 28.
What is Votto’s best quality?
“His thoughtfulness, he really thinks about other people, cares about others,” said Jeanne Paulus.
And his worst?
“Well, sometimes he can be forgetful ... like I didn’t know you were coming for lunch until you showed up.”
I jumped into a cab on Monday outside Marriott and said: “Comiskey Park please.”
The cabbie said “never heard of it.”
“Do you have a dispatcher or a GPS?”
“Nope, but this is my 20th day on the job.”
Figuring this was like New York where Yellow cabs are not all that enthralled going to the Bronx and getting stuck in traffic, I walked over to the Hilton.
“Comiskey Park please.”
“Sorry, never heard of it?”
“Do you have a GPS or a dispatcher you can call?”
Cab No. 3 ...
“Do you know where Comiskey Park is?”
“No, I don’t, sir.”
Now I am getting as angry as I ever get “how come none of you people know where Comiskey is, it’s right across the street from ... ah, you know what, I’ve changed my mind ... how ‘bout you take me to U.S. Cellular Field.”
And off we went.