Scott Thorman was Votto's inspiration

* 1B Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) had an inspiration as a teen ager: Scott Thorman (Cambridge, Ont.) drafted two years earlier by the Atlanta Braves ....  2012 Canadians in the Minors  2012 Canadians Drafted 2012 Canadians in College Letters of Intent Canuck$ with $ix-figure $igning bonu$e$ Brewers, MLB to stage open workout camps

By Bob Elliott

KANSAS CITY - Everyone has role models.

For Joey Votto it was his Etobicoke Rangers coach Bobby Smyth.  Votto flew Smyth and his wife Cathy in from Ladysmith, BC for the all-star festivities.

Everyone has someone they’d want to grow up to be like.

For the Cincinnati Reds all-star it was Scott Thorman, another left-handed hitting first baseman.

“He signed for all that money and received all that attention when he went in the first round and wasn’t that far from where I lived,” Votto told reporters Monday at Arrowhead Stadium during the National League players briefing.

“Scott Thorman was the phantom I was chasing, drafted 27th overall, received $1.2-million US signing bonus ... I think.”

Thorman was selected 30th overall from Team Ontario — eight picks ahead of Blue Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson. The Cambridge native was given a $1.225-million bonus by Dayton Moore, then the Atlanta Braves scouting director in 2000 and now general manager of the Kansas City Royals.

Votto was a year younger, but wasn’t drafted the next summer.

“When I was with the Canadian Thunderbirds we practised at the Frozen Ropes facility in Guelph,” Votto said. “Thorman was hitting off a tee. His swing was so powerful, so effortless, I was too intimidated to go over and introduce myself. He was my white whale.

“Years later we played on the same team. He’s a sweetheart of a guy.”

John Castlebury of the Reds selected Votto 44th overall with Cincinnati’s second-round pick in 2002 when Votto was in grade 13.

And this year GM Walt Jocketty made Votto Canada’s first $200-million athlete, signing him to a 10-year contract extension worth $225 million. It begins in 2014 and carries an option for 2024.

And as kids across Canada watched the all-star game no doubt Votto will be their inspiration.

While Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels and Prince Fielder of the Detroit Tigers signed 10-year deals, they struggled, especially Pujols when the season began.

Votto is hitting .348 with an NL-high 35 doubles, 14 homers, 48 RBIs and a 1.087 OPS.

Some say he’s the best in the game.

“I aspire to being the best and take pride in my game, I saw Albert do it for a long, long time,” Votto said. “You need to be an elite defender, run the bases. Usually it’s guys up the middle — shortstops, centre fielders — who are called the best.

“I have things to work on. I’m always refining at the plate. I give away an occasional at-bat, swinging at a bad pitch. Even if it is one bad AB in 50, it’s one too many.”

Votto said how Pujols treats every at-bat as if it’s the last of his career.

“Walking to the plate I’ll ask myself: ‘are you ready?’ ” Votto said.

Votto showed his Etobicoke sense of humour a number of times:

• A Pittsburgh TV station asked how Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutcheon has grown in stature. “A statue? They built a statue for him? Andrew and Willie Stargell?”

• A Washington radio asked about Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond. “I’m happy he’s doing so well, he’s a good friend, we live 20 minutes from each other near Sarasota. I hope he earns some money so he can finally pick up a dinner. Like I told our neighbour Josh Roenicke (pitching in the Colorado Rockies bullpen) you’re going to get out of triple-A and buy a second car. I’m tired of picking you up all the time.”

• A Japanese TV crew asked Votto which current all-star he’d like to go for dinner with. “Some guys here I know, but I’d rather go to eat with someone I’ve never met before, like George Brett or Barry Bonds.”

• FUSE radio asked Votto his favourite type of music? “I prefer it quiet,” said Votto. “Why’s that?” asked the radio guy. “I prefer it quiet.”

• An reporter asked what one thing Votto couldn’t do. “I can’t skate or play hockey,” Votto said. “Well, I can skate ... but I can’t stop.”

• Is he for or against instant replays? “I don’t mind the home run replay, but anything else ... I’m not a fan. The umps do a good job, if there are mistakes they are on both side. Besides more replays would make us all late for dinner reservations.”