Joey Votto is an animal.
Not only is he one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball (and 2010 MVP), he is now the best defensive first baseman in the National League. It marks the first time in Reds history that a first baseman has won the award.
Just ask teammate Brandon Phillips how impressive this achievement is for Votto, who also knows a little something about superb fielding. He just won his third gold glove in four seasons, and is glad his first baseman has caught up to him through hard work:
"Joey really worked his butt off on defense," Phillips said. "That was our goal. We wanted for each other"
Votto, who ranked third in the NL with a .996 fielding percentage, committed six errors this season.
It’s an incredible turn of events for Votto. As a young minor leaguer, he was essentially a player without a true player in the field. Considering nobody can be a career DH, he had to pick a position despite being 22 years old. That’s why it means so much for Votto:
"This award, of all awards I've won in the past, has special meaning to me. When I first started playing professional baseball, I was without a position. For my first half-season in the Minor Leagues, I was essentially a professional DH. To have come this far through hard work, perseverance and the willingness to learn is something I will always be proud of. Defense is a part of the game that can always be improved upon, and to have come as far as I have, I am an example of that."
It’s an incredible achievement when you think about the reps it takes to become an elite defender in baseball. Virtually every player currently in the majors as been playing the only position they’ve ever known since the age of five. These players have thousands of reps over the years to get to the level they currently reside at. Votto crammed all of that into the past five-to-six years and has now been rewarded for his tireless effort.
The last part of his statement is something every young player can learn from. Not everybody can become a home run hitter, but everyone can be a good defender. It takes countless reputation and a strong commitment, but eventually things will work out.
Congrats Votto, your hard work has paid off.