Failures taught Votto to succeed
BY CHAD BROCKHOFF
SARASOTA -- After striking out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning Thursday, Joey Votto unfastened his batting gloves and calmly walked back to the dugout on the first-base side of Ed Smith Stadium.
Votto may have been disappointed that he was unable to garner a hit off Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya and draw the Cincinnati Reds closer in what was then a 6-3 game, but he didn't let it show. That's the biggest difference between the Votto of two years ago and the high-rising prospect now battling for a spot on Cincinnati's opening-day roster.
Splitting the season between Dayton and Potomac in 2004, Votto topped all Reds' farmhands with a .301 batting average and 92 RBI. The club's second-round pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft appeared to be on the fast track and he started the next season at the advanced Single-A level with the Sarasota Reds of the Florida State League.
Although he saw a drop-off in his numbers from the previous year, the 2005 season proved to be beneficial for the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Toronto native because he learned how to approach the game.
"I learned to deal with failure and how to struggle," said the first baseman, who hit .256 with 17 home runs and 83 RBI in that one season in Sarasota. "I learned the importance of routine and how you have to maintain a routine to mold disciplines. Basically, I learned how to struggle. I think a lot of players have to go through that just to learn what it's all. I found out a lot about myself."
Votto showed just how much he learned last year as he led the Double-A Southern League with a .319 average, 162 hits, 85 runs scored, 78 walks and 46 doubles, one shy of the league record. He also belted 24 homers and earned league Most Valuable Player honors.
"I think the key to my success last year was how consistent I stayed with getting my work in," Votto said. "Making sure that I hit every single day and getting my groundballs in. Just all the little things that I needed to do to become a better player. And, last year was the first year that I finally put all that together. It was an everyday thing. You find out a lot about yourself when you fail, and you find out a little about yourself when you succeed. I learned what it took to succeed."
Votto has played in all eight Grapefruit League games for the Reds this spring, including hitting a solo home run in Wednesday night's 1-1 tie against the Yankees in Tampa. He is 6-for-14 with eight runs scored and five RBI, but he is behind Scott Hatteberg and Jeff Conine on the Reds' depth chart and will most likely start the season at Triple-A Louisville.
"I think that I'm just going to keep playing hard wherever they send me," Votto said. "If they send me to the minor leagues, I'm going to be that much hungrier. This is something that I want really bad. I'm going to work hard and play hard, and play as well as I can to get there and help the Reds. That's what I want to do, and I genuinely think that I can help them."