Votto on Aaron: 'Icon. Greatness'

January 23rd, 2021

CINCINNATI – Reds first baseman was the 2010 Hank Aaron Award winner as the National League’s best hitter and has met the award’s namesake on a couple of occasions. Because Dusty Baker was Votto's manager from 2008-13, Votto also had the good fortune to meet Hank Aaron in a more private setting in Baker’s office.

Aaron, who passed away Friday at the age of 86, was Baker’s teammate and mentor when they played for the Braves. Baker was on deck in 1974 when Aaron slugged career home run No. 715 to pass Babe Ruth as baseball’s all-time leader.

“I was lucky enough to meet him, spend time with him, ask questions, but most of the time just listen,” Votto told CTV National News in Canada. “Whether through Dusty’s stories as his teammate or speaking to him in person, it was really a treat.

“He was so charming and graceful, patient. He had so many characteristics that I admire in a person.”

Votto, who also was the 2010 NL Most Valuable Player and one of his generation’s best hitters, was aware of the hardships and racism that Aaron endured while pursuing Ruth’s titanic record as a Black player in the south.

“I was very grateful to have met him and got to know him a little bit,” Votto said. “Hank was like the epitome of grace, turn the other cheek, patience, kindness, steadiness and overcoming in the face of adversity that most will never understand.

“He lived it in the most graceful way. I hope by getting to meet him, by getting to witness his life, my life crossing over with his, I hope that I can just take even one percent of one percent of what he has and apply it to my life. I feel honored that I got to witness his life.”

Aaron played 23 seasons in the Major Leagues from 1954-76 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. His 755 career home runs was the standard for 33 years before he was surpassed by Barry Bonds, who hit 762 homers. He still ranks first on baseball’s all-time list in RBIs (2,297), third in hits (3,771) and fourth in runs (2,174) while having a career batting average of .305. The Hank Aaron Award has been given to the top hitter in each league, as voted on by fans and the media, annually since 1999.

“He is literally, without question -- anecdotally or statistically -- considered among the best couple of players. Our sport is approximately 150 years old or so -- older than all of the major sports,” Votto said. “He is very clearly in that smallest of groups that are in that first conversation of best of all time.”

Votto was asked to use three words to describe Aaron.

“Icon. Greatness. Grace,” Votto replied.