*Bobby Smyth (Laydsmith, BC), right, poses with Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith at the Cooperstown Golf Classic. Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) flew his former coach to upstate New York as a thank you for all his help over the years.
By Bob Elliott
Joey Votto was searching for an idea.
A flight for two to Mexico maybe? Europe?
He wanted to give his former Etobicoke Rangers coach Bob Smyth a thank you.
He came up with flying Smyth, from Ladysmith, B.C. east for a the Cooperstown Golf Classic next weekend, Father’s Day weekend, featuring Hall of Famers Goose Gossage, Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, Ozzie Smith, Phil Niekro and Tony Pérez.
The tourney will be played on the Leatherstocking Golf Course layout at the Otesaga Resort Hotel. The weekend includes a cocktail reception in the Hall of Fame plaque gallery with the Hall of Fame team captains, a private breakfast and golfing with a Hall of Fame member. Each golfer experiences a behind-the-scenes archival tour into the heart of the museum’s collections.
“I’m sitting out here enjoying our weather, Joey phones and says ‘how’d you like to go?’ He hit me out of no where, so I say sure I wanna go,” said Smyth, who has been termed grouchy on his good days by former players.
“He’d been working on it for two weeks. What do you think of that?”
Of all the players I’ve known for remembering people who helped them get them are in the game, Roy Halladay, Pat Hengten, Devon White and certainly Votto lead the way.
Halladay bought his pitching instructor Bus Campbell a TV sattelite dish, paid for a year's subscription and installed it one afternoon at his Arvada, Col. house when Campbell was out. Hengten, who was not turned in by the Major League Scouting Bureau gave scout Don Wilkie a Rolex watch after winning the Cy Young award and White bought his uniforms for the team his former coach ran in Washington Heights, N.Y.
“I wanted to do something nice for Bobby, we haven’t spoken much this winter because of my schedule,” Votto said. “It’s not because I signed a new contract, but because I now have the means to give something to him. He’s as a baseball historian so this is up his alley. He’ll fit right in with the Hall of Famers.”
Votto signed a three-year $38 million deal coming off his MVP season.
Smyth’s wife Cathy was invited to attend too, but has a prior commitment this Father’s Day weekend.
“Joey’s like a son to me,” Smyth said. “Did I cry? Hell no. Are you crazy?
“Joey has elevated himself to another level, this is a thank you. We still talk, but I’m given up giving him s---. He’s got this game figured out pretty good for a 27-year-old.”
Previously Votto has shipped his framed Cincinnati Reds jersey and his framed game-worn World Baseball Classic Team Canada jersey to the west coast.
Votto’s right about Smyth being a historian from the triple-A Toronto Maple Leafs to early Jays days to attending spring as a guest coach in Dunedin.
The Hall of Famers may learn a thing or two.
“I’ve never played golf with him, but I’ve heard he’s good,” Votto said. “He does have a reputation for winning by any means necessary, if you know what I mean.”