Phi Delta Theta presented the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award to Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds on July 27 prior to the Reds game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. Phi Delta Theta presents the award annually to a Major League Baseball player who best exemplifies the giving character of Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig, a member of the Fraternity’s Columbia University chapter. The award was first presented in 1955 and is permanently maintained at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
Alongside the on-field presentation, Phi Delta Theta hosted a pre-game gathering with area Phis.
In 2017, Joey was honored as the Reds’ Most Valuable Player for the sixth time, and for the second straight year the vote was unanimous. Not only did Joey appear in all 162 games, he became the first Reds player to start all 162 games in a non-strike year since Pete Rose in 1975. He hit .320 with 34 doubles, 36 HR and 100 RBI. He broke his own club record by reaching base safely 321 times, which placed him in the top spot across the League. He also led the Major Leagues in walks (134) for the fifth time and in on-base percentage (.454) for the sixth time, as well as the National League in OPS (1.032).
Joey’s stats speak for themselves. He finished second in the BBWAA’s National League Most Valuable Player Award voting by only two points. It was the fourth-closest vote ever, and he received MVP votes for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. Joey was also a National League All-Star for the fifth time in his career as well as a finalist for the prestigious Hank Aaron Award for the fifth time.
His honors reach far beyond baseball. Joey won the Lou Marsh Trophy for Canada’s Athlete of the Year among all sports in December 2017. The honor is voted on by a panel of journalists and was first awarded in 1936. He is one of only three baseball players to win the award and the only one to win it more than once.
Following the conclusion of the 2017 season, Joey spent hours at the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy, giving lessons to the boys and girls that train there. This is just one example of Joey’s ongoing involvement with the Reds Youth Academy. The building where the student athletes train, the Joey Votto Training Center, bears his name in recognition of the contributions he has made to the Reds Community Fund over the years.
Every December Joey attends Redsfest, the club’s annual offseason fan-fest and fundraiser for the Reds Community Fund. Joey participated in autograph sessions, media interviews, team introductions and awards, as well as a kids only press conference during the two-day event this past December.
In June, the Reds Community Fund hosted the Reds Bowling Bash, a bi-annual full team fundraiser. Each player is assigned to a lane and bowls with a group of guests. However, Joey’s participation was unlike any other player. Joey went above and beyond by seeking out the opportunity to greet and take photos with hundreds of guests in attendance.
Joey keeps much of his personal time private, and therefore, you may not find very much in the media about his time spent in the community. There was one story though that received lots of media attention this year, and that was the story of Joey Votto and Superbubz.
In August, Walter Herbert, better known as Superbubz, had the opportunity to attend batting practice at Great American Ball Park as part of a wish visit experience. Superbubz was fighting stage four neuroblastoma when he met Joey for the first time. Joey gave him a behind the scenes tour of the clubhouse and signed a bat for him to take home. A week later, on August 31, Superbubz was at the game, sitting behind home plate, when he caught Joey’s eye. Joey gave him a high five while waiting in the on-deck circle, and during his next plate appearance, Joey hit his 34th home run of the season. Immediately after, he delivered the bat and his jersey to Superbubz. On October 6, Superbubz lost his long battle with cancer. Joey attended the visitation, along with hundreds of others, to pay his respects to the family. Their interaction on August 31 won him with the MLB Award for Best Player-Fan Interaction, which he accepted in Superbubz’ honor. Although they only knew each other for a few short weeks, they created a special bond, one that will last forever.
Votto is the fifth member of the Cincinnati Reds to win the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award: Pete Rose (1969), Johnny Bench (1975), Barry Larkin (1994), and Danny Graves (2002). For detailed information about the history of the award, visit http://museum.phideltatheta.org/lou-gehrig-award/