Saying his comments came from an “absolutely silly, short-sighted, selfish place,” Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto apologized Wednesday for saying that he doesn’t care about Canada, Canadian baseball or his hometown of Toronto.
Votto, who played for Canada at the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics and won the Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s athlete of the year in 2010 and 2017, distanced himself from his home country in an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Major League Baseball podcast.
“I don’t care almost at all about Canadian baseball,” said Votto, who was also the National League MVP in 2010. “I wasn’t raised inside of Canadian baseball really. I’m coming up on half of my life being in the United States working and being supported by American baseball.”
Votto later issued a statement saying he was “terribly ashamed,” and apologized for the comments again Wednesday on a conference call.
“I cringed hearing it because I’m so embarrassed by what I said,” Votto said. “I feel very strongly that it couldn’t be less in line with how I feel about Canadian baseball, Toronto and [Seattle Mariners left-hander] James Paxton.”
‘I am saddened … that I offended so many people’
In an email posted on the Canadian Baseball Network website after the Reds lost 5-3 to the San Francisco Giants Tuesday night, Votto said he is “terribly ashamed” of his comments and called them “ridiculously selfish and short-sighted.”
Votto added: “I am saddened that I was so flagrant with my remarks and more importantly that I offended so many people that mean so much to me.”
Votto’s initial comments came after he was asked about Paxton of Ladner, B.C., throwing his recent no-hitter against the Blue Jays in Toronto, becoming the first Canadian in MLB history to do so on home soil.
“As far as Toronto, and Canadian baseball, and the country of Canada, and [James Paxton] being Canadian, I don’t care at all,” said Votto. “[Paxton], or the Jays, or Canada, in general, may disagree with that, but I really couldn’t give a rat’s ass about that.”
Votto did clarify in the podcast that he was happy for Paxton as a baseball player, but not as a fellow Canadian.
‘Side of jealousy’
In his apology, Votto said being asked about baseball in Canada, the Blue Jays and the Paxton no-hitter recalled his resentment for not making Team Canada or being drafted by the Blue Jays out of high school, and not being picked for the Olympic team while in the minors.
“Clearly my reply came out of a side of jealousy for a Canadian baseball athlete being celebrated in the city of Toronto. It was an odd reply and one I am terribly ashamed of,” he wrote.
“I go back to Toronto each off-season and feel renewed every time I cross the border to my home and native land. I would not be where I am now without the efforts of so many Canadian baseball people and the fans of Canadian baseball.
“To James Paxton, the Blue Jays, the Toronto fans, the women and men all across Canada that work so hard to promote and support Canadian baseball, I am sorry for my selfish comments and I humbly ask for your forgiveness.”
Social media lit up as news of the comments circulated Tuesday night. Outfielder Dalton Pompey of Mississauga, Ont., currently with triple-A Buffalo after a stint with the Blue Jays, posted a reply on Twitter to a Yahoo story link.
“Damn Joey, tell us how u really feel. Smh [shake my head],” Pompey tweeted.
Votto took questions for about 15 minutes on a conference call Wednesday before the Reds’ afternoon game at San Francisco. He called his podcast comments “a complete miss by me.”
“It couldn’t have been more cringe-worthy,” he said. “I just did everything wrong and it came from a bad place. I am so regretful.”
Drafted by the Reds in 2002 out of Toronto’s Richview Collegiate Institute, Votto made his big-league debut in 2007 and has spent his entire career with Cincinnati.
While in the minor leagues, Votto played for the national team at the World Cup. He also made appearances for Canada at the World Baseball Classic in 2009 and 2013.
Perennial MVP candidate
Baseball Canada national teams director Greg Hamilton said Votto is a great teammate who has been “tremendously supportive” of the program.
“I’ve always judged people by their actions and not so much their words,” Hamilton said from Ottawa. “His actions have showed complete care and respect. He’s been heavily involved with who we are and with our national team program, and been very consistent in doing it.”
Votto, a five-time all-star, has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in each of the last three years.
Last month, Votto was presented with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award for the seventh time in eight years. The honour is given annually to the Canadian player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball’s highest ideals.
“There’s a home and a place here for Joey at any time where Joey is available and able,” Hamilton said. “We would love to have him in any context. We value him obviously as a player and we value him every bit as much as a human being and a person.
“Personally my view is he’s a really good caring person that does get it. That’s my personal opinion from experiences with him and the actions that he’s shown.”