How new HOFer Rolen left mark on Votto

January 31st, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mark Sheldon’s Reds Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CINCINNATI -- The final stop of ’s Hall of Fame career was in Cincinnati, and it proved to be pivotal for the franchise. During Rolen’s tenure from 2009-12, the Reds won two National League Central titles (’10 and ’12). They also went to the NL Wild Card Game in ’13, after Rolen retired.

Rolen greatly influenced the Reds' clubhouse with his leadership -- often by example -- and with his work ethic. Many players watched him closely and listened when he spoke, and he affected the career of a potential future Hall of Famer in .

“I got traded there from Toronto [on July 31, 2009]. Our lockers ended up next to each other,” Rolen recalled last week after his election to the Hall of Fame. “He was kind of an eyes-and-ears-open and mouth-shut guy. I think he was looking for some help, not that I’m this guy or whatever it is, but he was at the point in his career where he knew he had the ability and maybe just wasn’t sure where he stood in the clubhouse or how he was. He’s an eccentric dude with an eccentric personality.”

In 2010, Votto was named the NL’s Most Valuable Player. Rolen and Votto often spent time together talking about the game.

“We just got to go out and eat a little bit together, talk together a little bit and be real honest with each other,” Rolen recalled. “I tried to be real honest with him and tell him as things went, ‘Your job is to go play, and if you can’t play, then you don’t play, but you’re not any good. If you’re not out there, you’re not out there.’ We had those types of conversations.”

When Rolen was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame last week, it was a time to celebrate his career and legacy in the game. While he will be most associated with the Cardinals and Phillies from his 17-year Major League career, it was also an opportunity to appreciate his contributions to the Reds.

Votto was among those who paid tribute to Rolen.

“I loved playing with him. I learned so much,” Votto posted in an Instagram story. “If any player is lucky enough to have a role model and a teammate like him, they’re as lucky as it gets. I shaped my career, my effort, my work in his mold. … I have nothing but respect for him and his achievements.”

Perhaps some years down the road, Votto will be standing on the stage in Cooperstown on his own induction day and get to thank Rolen in person.