Last month, I noted that Joey Votto had made the decision to present himself on social media in the form of Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram. (“Aren’t you a little old for TikTok?” the 25-year-old Bengals quarterback hilariously asked him when the two met for the first time. Votto’s response: 🙁 ) The image-friendly Instagram account has seen rather more action than the others, and, perhaps now that he’s injured, the way Votto is using the platform has changed as well.
Votto mentioned to Jim Day that his advent on social media was meant not just to trumpet his almighty Athlete Opinion, but to provide an avenue of entertainment and connection for fans. He’s realized that after a swerve or two earlier in his career, he is in a unique position to find something… well, unique to say. At first, this meant choreographed dances, dressing as the Hulk, and some edit-magic videos. And then he got COVID. And then the posts began to change.
Unable to join the lineup during the Reds’ Star Wars May the 4th promotion, a Jedi Joey Votto bobblehead (of course there was a Star Wars May the 4th promotion consisting of a Jedi Joey Votto bobblehead), Votto found another way to participate. He autographed some of the trinkets. Then he put them in bags. Then he hid them. That led fans on a minor treasure hunt throughout the city (“You can keep the bag,” Votto offered) and a new form of play probably wouldn’t have generated if he’d simply shown up at the ballpark and signed away as usual. It went so well that he hung a bag from a tree in Dayton when he returned to a minor league assignment.
The lost games were a disappointing situation. So the old man made it even better than originally planned with a pen, some waterproof bags, and a few broad hints.
I’m one of those “I hate social media but I have to be on it for my career so what are you gonna do but yeah I’m scrolling the timeline even when I don’t strictly have to, what are you gonna do” people. Sometimes I forget that social media– just like the Internet, just like baseball, just about anything– is a neutral development, neither good nor bad. The direction it takes lies in its usage. A 38-year-old Votto understands this perhaps in ways that our young quarterback, for all his level-headed success, cannot.
Maybe, now that he’s back in the dugout, we’ll see a return to conventional choreography. But maybe not. Since his illness, Votto has posted photos of his late father, his brothers, and his recently departed dog, Maris (“no, no, no, it’s a joy and gift to be THEIR brother,” he responded to a commenter who said, “Imagine being Joey Votto’s brother.”)
Votto rejoined the team in time for a visit to Toronto, his hometown. Much was made in the media over this return, trumpeting it as perhaps his final series against the Blue Jays in his career. Votto hasn’t confirmed this one way or the other. He did, however, link to a profile of his trip from The Athletic (behind paywall.) In the photo accompanying the article, he’s not in uniform, slinging a bat over his shoulder, but close to the earth, crouching next to grass in nearly-bare feet. “Heading to Toronto tomorrow to play the Jays has me reminiscing,” he captioned a photo of himself as a high schooler.
Then, of course, before things got too serious, he expressed comical anguish over the fact that local authorities quashed his plans to parachute Canadian snacks with over his hometown. Throughtout this period–his injury and his trip to his native land–Votto has posted mainly images of chess puzzles, asking fans what they think. For, in the final period of his career, not matter how disappointing his team’s final record is, Joey Votto will play with us.