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Kidsday talks to baseball star Joey Votto

Kidsday reporters Tom Healy, 13, from Plainview and

Kidsday reporters Tom Healy, 13, from Plainview and Jerry Festa, 13, from Freeport with Joey Votto, first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, in the Reds visitors dugout at Citi Field. (June 17, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Pat Mullooly

We interviewed Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto in the Reds' dugout before a June game with the Mets at Citi Field. He rejoined the lineup this month after getting knee surgery in July. He turned 29 on Sept. 10.

How much do you love the game of baseball?

I would say the more I play, the more I find little things that I enjoy. Initially, it was, as a kid, a good escape, and a good thing to do in my free time. As I became a professional a lot of challenging parts about it could overwhelm me at times, but now I feel like I am playing for the right reasons and learning about better ones.

How do you calm down after a game?

That is a good question. After the game I try to make sure I do some quiet sitting. I know that sounds kind of odd to say that, but it is important to kind of soak the game in. I have a routine of stretching and light massage. I usually use the ice tub and make sure that I get something in my system nutritionally.

Who is your favorite pitcher to hit against?

You know, I am not one of those guys that likes feeding off of a certain pitcher, although some numbers might say the opposite. I enjoy competition, so I really like facing the better pitchers in the game. It is fun facing [Justin] Verlander, [Roy] Halladay and Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw.

Does your number 19 have a significance?

No, I was given that number when I was first called up. I have enjoyed it. As a kid, I wanted No. 5 and No. 9, and when I got to the big leagues, had the No. 5 [Johnny Bench] not been retired I would have asked for that.

We heard you're from Canada. Canada's big sport is hockey. What inspired you to play baseball instead of hockey?

Well, the equipment was pretty expensive when I was a kid, and a lot of the kids that play hockey start very, very young in Canada. I wouldn't have started until I was 9 or 10, and that would have been just too late. So I think the combination of how expensive a lot of the equipment is and how a lot of the guys that I play baseball with told me about how great they were in hockey at such a young age.

What advice can you give a kid who has a dream of playing in MLB?

Just play. Not everyone's going to make it to the major leagues, not everyone's going to make it to college, let alone professional baseball or the major leagues. It really is a pyramid where people just fall along the wayside. That's OK. There's a lot of really positive things you can learn from playing the sport, from learning how to work at something, learning how to be part of a team. So there's a lot of very good life lessons you can learn from baseball along the way, and it will always be something you'll love.

Do you think the rookies on the team look up to you as a leader?

Yes and no. I'm still young in my career. So some players might feel more comfortable speaking to some older guys, but I do feel like I play the game in a pretty good way and I've achieved some things. Certainly there's that to reference from me. But I would say I'm not quite there yet.

Did you play another sport growing up besides baseball?

I played basketball in high school and I tried to play some football, but I just didn't want to get hurt. I also played quite a bit of road hockey. I know that doesn't sound like regular hockey, but I was all right with road hockey. I couldn't skate well.

What kind of car do you drive?

I have a BMW 5 series.

Do you have any rituals you do before a game?

I suppose I do. I'm very particular about making sure that I'm 100 percent ready for the game. I don't like letting the game warm me up. I like my swing. I like to be able to run full speed before a game. So I make sure I do all my work beforehand. I also make sure not to eat too much before the game. I like to eat a small snack. I try to avoid too much food. That's pretty much it. I'm not very superstitious.

Did you ever think you were going to be as good as you are now?

Yes.

How much work does it take to get to the majors?

Well, it certainly involves talent and physical ability. I have found that it takes a tremendous amount of work. . . . The guys that I have played with tell me about all the work they did as kids, hours and hours and hours on the ballfield, traveling with teams, hitting with their dads and coaches and their moms in some cases. So it takes a lot of time and energy.

Who or what inspires you to play baseball?

I initially started playing with my dad at 7 or 8 years old, and I had some very good coaches in my high school years.

How do you get ready for a game?

Every day is different. I get up in the morning and I work out. I try to get to the ballpark and do all my baseball-related stuff. And then close to the game, I try to make sure that I am loose and I have a sweat going and I am ready to run at full speed.

What are some of your hobbies?

I read quite a bit. With friends I'll play video games. I have a dog. That's pretty much it. I've got other miscellaneous hobbies, but those are the three that take most of my time up.

Have you ever hit a walk-off home run?

Yeah, I think two walk-off runs. One last year and one this year. I hit a walk-off grand slam this year.

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