It’s not every day you see a major league star walk around the stadium to talk to fans unless it’s some sort of organized team event.
But that was the case during Wednesday’s Reds-Red Sox game as Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto walked around Great American Ball Park in a Barry Larkin jersey to talk and pose for pictures with fans while further joking about his “dad bod.”
The 38-year-old Votto, who had season-ending surgery on Aug. 19 after suffering a torn rotator cuff, has spent several games in the Bally Sports Ohio broadcast booth with play-by-play announcer John Sadak and analyst and Hall of Famer Barry Larkin since the injury, including Tuesday night when he first joked about his “dad bod.”
On Wednesday night, Votto made his way through the crowd wearing a Larkin jersey during the first few innings to visit with fans and pose for photos. He was heard during the broadcast telling fans “thank you” multiple times.
The Reds broadcasters couldn’t resist making a few jokes about the scene.
“The dad bod making its way around the ballpark,” Sadak said jokingly. “Couldn’t you almost see Joey Votto being the Great American Ball Park ‘Willy Wonka.’ You get some kind of a golden ticket and Joey’s giving you a tour of the stadium? We could get him a top hat, tails, a walking stick of some kind. Some kid asks for the autograph. ‘You’ve done it! You’ve done it! You’ve won!’”
During the bottom of the third inning, Votto joined Sadak and Larkin in the booth.
“I just have one question, Joey. Are you covering up the dad bod with the Larkin jersey?” Larkin said jokingly. “Is there something to that? That’s all I want to know.”
“Most people weren’t happy to see me,” Votto said. “They were just complimenting the jersey. They were just so excited to see me in a Larkin jersey. Covering up the dad bod? Absolutely, yes.”
After the joking was done, Votto said it was a great experience to visit with the fans throughout the stadium.
“I’ve never walked the stands,” Votto said. “And I’ve always wanted to see what a Reds game is like live. I’ve always wanted to connect with the fans. And I was able to take a tour of the stadium.
“And it is, first of all, beautiful,” Votto added. “And the fans seem happy to see me. And they were surprised. But the common theme was the compliments with the [Larkin] jersey.
“I borrowed this jersey from Tyler Stephenson. Not long ago, you signed it for him. And I don’t know — I felt a real pep in my step wearing this jersey. And took a little tour like I said of the stadium. It was such a great experience. So many great places to sit here.”
Votto ended up talking to the fans more than he thought he would.
“It’s a beautiful night,” Votto said. “I don’t know — I don’t know why I did it. But I started it just hoping to say hello. And then I ended up going around the entire stadium — full experience.”
The shoulder injury contributed to what was a rough season for Votto, a former National League MVP.
Before having to undergo surgery, the six-time All-Star was slashing .205/.319/.370 with 11 home runs and 41 RBI in 91 games. Those numbers were a far cry from the 16-year veteran’s normal output. Votto, who has a career average of .295, also has 346 homers and 1,016 RBI to go along with his 2,093 hits.