Votto honors WWI poem for Players' Weekend

Slugger chooses 1915 verse 'In Flanders Fields' as nickname

August 9th, 2018

CINCINNATI -- Whether he's doing something on the field, answering a question off the field or in making most decisions, it's very likely that Reds first baseman Joey Votto has put in a lot of thought before acting.

Votto's choice for a Players' Weekend nickname underscored that again. He chose to put In Flanders Fields above his No. 19. It's the title of a 1915 Canadian poem written by a military doctor named John McCrae during World War I.

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"I thought about this last year," said Votto, a native of Toronto. "Last year being the first year we did Players' Weekend, I didn't realize the freedom we had. I just felt like last year, I had fun with it, but this year, I wanted to do something that had more meaning."

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The poem reads as follows:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Votto contemplated what he would choose for his special jersey during the offseason and made the decision during Spring Training.

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"I'm very proud and excited to have the opportunity to share with the public something that has meant so much to me," Votto said. "I'm Canadian. I remember as a student in Canada, waking up, going to school on the 11th day in the 11th month at the 11th hour, stopping and paying tribute to our past, and the 'In Flanders Fields' poem being part of that process. It means a tremendous amount to me. I think our country does a very good job of paying tribute to our past. Whenever I go home and I cross paths with something that has history, especially as I've gotten older, I find that there's more meaning to it."

November 11 in Canada is Remembrance Day and many of its citizens pay tribute to fallen soldiers by wearing a poppy on their shirt or jacket. The McCrae poem is a big part of the day.

"Everybody knew it by heart. That's pretty automatic," Votto said. "It's a very simple poem, but one that has a tremendous amount of meaning to us."

In 2017 for Players' Weekend, Votto also went unconventional when he chose Tokki 2 in a homage to former teammate , who was Tokki 1 for the Rangers. Tokki is the Korean word for rabbit.

Players' Weekend 2018 will be Aug. 24-26, when the Reds play the Cubs at Wrigley Field.