A difficult year for Joey Votto likely will end with him joining the Canadian baseball record books.
After struggling mentally and physically following the death of his father last season, Votto has recovered to once again play a prominent role with the Cincinnati Reds.
With just nine games to go in the regular season, Votto is batting .314, putting him on pace to become just the 10th Canadian in MLB history to hit .300 or better in a year.
The early part of this season saw Votto deal with panic attacks, anxiety attacks, dizziness and depression, eventually leading to a stint on the disabled list.
After getting treatment and therapy, Votto came off of the DL in late June, just in time for a series in Toronto against his hometown Blue Jays.
Since that time, the Etobicoke native has been a model of consistency. Votto has appeared in 84 of the team’s 85 games upon his return to the lineup. He has also reached base safely in all 22 of his games in the month of September.
With a smooth swing and a bit of a power stroke, Votto leads the Reds with 22 home runs.
Reds manager Dusty Baker feels that he can stay above .300.
“If he’s out there playing, Joey is going to hit,” Baker said to MLB.com. “Your at-bats are getting fewer and fewer. You’re lucky to get another 45-50 at-bats, max.
“Your concentration increases because you know you have less opportunity.”
If Votto can hit .111 or better in his final nine games, he’ll join a list of notables in Canadian history.
George Selkirk was the first Canadian major leaguer to hit .300 or better in a season when he batted .312 over 128 games in 1935.
The player to most frequently reach the .300 plateau was arguably Canada’s all-time greatest hitter. Larry Walker reached the mark nine times, including twice as a member of the Montreal Expos.
Toronto’s Rob Ducey was the lone player to hit above .300 as a member of the Blue Jays when he did so in 1988 and 1990. However, he was a backup both seasons and appeared in less than 30 games each of those years.
More recently, it’s been Justin Morneau and Jason Bay, teammates of Votto’s at the World Baseball Classic, who have hit that total.
Hitting this elusive mark will be all the more impressive given that he has limited lineup protection with the Reds. That often allows pitchers to be more selective of what they throw to Votto.
The combination of that and what Votto has gone through over the past 13 months will make it one of the more meaningful milestones for the young first baseman.
“It’s been pretty tiring and pretty draining. Every day has not been easy,” said Votto, to MLB.com. “To be able to get through the personal side, it’s been exhausting. I’m looking forward to the end of the season.
“I know people don’t want to hear that. I love playing and what I do and being with the guys and putting on the uniform, but it has been a difficult year for me.
“It was a different 162 games for me.”