Clemente nod underscores Votto's passion to connect

September 29th, 2022

CINCINNATI -- When Joey Votto helps people in need, the Reds first baseman prefers to do it quietly and anonymously. Votto will gladly accept accolades for his efforts on the field but expects nothing for what he does for his community.

Nevertheless, the community appreciates Votto, and the Reds underscored that again by naming him their recipient for the Roberto Clemente Award for community service a second consecutive year.

In recent seasons, and especially in 2022, the discomfort Votto has felt in interacting with the public has waned and his ability to connect has increased. That included his joining multiple social media platforms.

“Now I feel like I’m with the fans. There’s no barrier. We’re all one together,” Votto told MLB Network earlier this month. “With that comfort come those moments between the fan base -- whether road or home -- and myself. It’s been really enjoyable to feel the transition during the course of my career. I feel safe and I feel like I’m meeting new people and making new friends.

“That’s the same thing with the things that I’m doing in the community. I try really hard not to share it publicly but there’s plenty of moments where I’m connecting with the community and doing some things that I feel like motivate and energize me to be a better version of myself.”

Among the largest contributions made by Votto during his Reds career was to the P&G Cincinnati Reds MLB Youth Academy that was completed in 2014. The indoor training center bears his name.

Votto frequently visits the facility, unannounced. Last year, while injured, he worked with the Reds RBI baseball and softball teams. The baseball club went on to win the program’s first-ever RBI World Series.

Among the organizations Votto supports is the Freestore Foodbank, to which he donated his $7,500 prize for being a Clemente Award recipient. The Freestore Foodbank provides food and strives to eliminate hunger in the community. Votto helped pack food at one of the locations following a July 28 Reds game.

Without fanfare, Votto also visits with patients at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and takes time to hang out at the ballpark with kids from Make-A-Wish. He also donates a portion of his salary yearly to the Reds Community Fund.

In 2021, the Cincinnati chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America named Votto the Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award winner for his relationship with the media and public.

Votto, 39, is missing the final 46 games of this season after he had major left shoulder surgery on Aug. 19. Even out of action, he has created unique memories.

Last week during a game vs. the Red Sox -- on the same night he accepted his Clemente Award check while wearing a Roberto Clemente replica Pirates jersey -- Votto roamed the seating area at Great American Ball Park and visited with fans, shaking hands and taking pictures.

The 2010 National League MVP, Votto told MLB Network he once started experiencing a shallow feeling about not giving back more.

“You feel you’re getting accolades and attention all the time,” Votto said. “At some point, you realize there is more to life. Selfishly, I like to feel well. It just so happens that once you enter into the habit, all of sudden you realize how addicting it can be. On top of that, you see the support that you’re lending and the appreciation, and then you just serve.

“The more I give, the happier I am, the more connected I feel to people, the more my social group expands and the more I feel connected to my brothers and sisters around the world.”