Joey Votto returns to his roots

votto pic * Aidan Luther tagged along with the his older brother, Brendan Luther, as the Mississauga Southwest Twins played the Etobicoke Rangers Wednesday night at Queensway Park. Aidan wound up having his picture taken with Etobicoke grad and former National League MVP winner Joey Votto. ....

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By Bob Elliott

Etobicoke’s Queensway Park routinely draws crowds of 20 or 30 parents and grandparents for a bantam game.

Not on Wednesday night, as the Etobicoke Rangers hosted the Mississauga Southwest Twins in COBA bantam play during the all-star break.

Rolling into the parking lot in time for pre-game stretching were Rangers grad and former Cincinnati Reds MVP Joey Votto, home for the break, and ex-Philadelphia Phillies minor-league catcher John Suomi to watch Roman Kula and Greg O’Hallorans Etobicoke team.

Warren Bradley and COBA Hall of Famer Rob Borden also showed.

O’Halloran told the team on the field before his game who was in the park. He told the Twins and teams at the other diamond “hey coach Joey Votto is over here ... if your guys wants to meet him.” Kids took off running throwing their gloves.

Watching the Rangers warm up Votto walked over and said “hey boys the game starts as soon as you get to the park, make proper throws, aim at a target when you throw to your partners.”

Just the way Votto’s former coach Bob Smyth or O’Halloran would have said it.

Votto stayed for most of the game -- a 2-0 Etobicoke win, featuring strong outings by Chris Wyslobocki, Max Mancini, Ryan Kula and Connor Lipinski, who combined on a five hitter.

Mancini picked up the win and Lipinski with the save.

Matthew Garner and Kula led the Rangers with two hits each.

Ryan Fiotakis and Corey van de Graaf pitched well for the Twins.

Seated on a ball bucket on this trip back to his roots, he signed about 40 autographs and posed for 10 pictures or so. Emails swelled the size of the crowd.

Votto said O’Halloran’s coaching style reminded him of Charlie Manuel.

On the disabled list with an injury, Votto was asked Thursday night if there was a celebrity citing at Queensway on Wednesday.

“Yep,” said Votto, “Mark Capone WAS present.”

Capone, his former teammate earned all-conference honours with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.

votto brothers

And on Tuesday night, Votto went through the same experience helping coach his brothers Ryan and Paul Votto with the Brampton Reds in bantam play.