Joey Votto uses first base as a water cooler, starting conversation with almost every opponent who reaches base against the Cincinnati Reds.
That’s one reason Votto was named the friendliest person to chat with at first base, in a poll of Major League Baseball players by The Athletic. He won 25 percent of the vote.
On the MLB Network’s Intentional Talk on Monday, Votto credited former teammates such as Paul Bako and Scott Rolen for shaping his demeanor on the field.
“They taught me how to be pro but then to have a great time,” Votto said, “how to fool with somebody but to stay on the game.”
Not everyone has the same reaction to Votto. He told the story of meeting Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Felipe Vazquez this week at the All-Star Game in Washington, D.C. Votto used to be scared of hitting against Vazquez because he threw inside against Votto and over his head early in his career when he was with the Nationals.
Vazquez approached Votto in the clubhouse Monday at Nationals Park.
“We don’t know each other,” Votto said, “and he says, ‘A lot of people tell me you’re not a nice guy. You’re mean.’ I go, ‘I don’t know who’s telling you those things. I think I’m a nice guy. I think I’ve got a good reputation.’ But really deep down inside, I wanted to say, ‘Who do you think you are talking to me this way?’ But I’m thinking, ‘He’ll hit me in the head at 101. You can’t come back from that ever.’”