CINCINNATI - Joey Votto returns to his native Canada this week with a hot bat and a reputation for being an attentive student of America's national pastime.
Votto, 24, has taken over the Cincinnati Reds' first baseman job in his first full season in the major leagues. He's batting .293 after getting 14 hits in his last 28 times at bat as the Reds head to Toronto to begin a three-game series Tuesday night against the Blue Jays.
Reds manager Dusty Baker said Votto already has a reputation for a good work ethic, and he likes that Votto tries hard to learn.
"I think one day in the near future, he's going to be a big run producer. He's a tough out," Baker said of Votto, who bats left and throws right. "He battles, he's good against lefties, (and) he's always in there studying, always."
Votto's mom, Wendy, said his bookshelf at home is packed with books on baseball, batting and how to become stronger physically and mentally. Besides reading, Votto also is known for spending hours watching baseball video, working with coaches and seeking advice from veteran players.
"I just love this. I want to be as good as I can as a baseball player," Votto said. "It's something I have passion about. If I feel motivated to do something, I do my very best."
His defense is still suspect at times, and he agreed he went through "little bit of a rough patch." He said he's working on being patient and relaxing.
Baker said Votto will improve defensively "because he wants to get it."
"Everybody wants this finished product right away," Baker said. "It doesn't happen like that. There are very few guys that come up a finished product in all departments."
His family lives in Brampton, Ontario, and he's the eldest of four children. His mother is the general manager and sommelier at Via Allegro Ristorante in Toronto. Father Joe works in corporate food services.
Wendy Votto said Joey, who speaks French, wasn't cut out for ice hockey because of problems skating.
"In Canada, you're a hockey player, but he's a disaster on ice," she said.
She said his family will be out in force for the Reds' visit.
Some 50 family members, friends and fans have rented a bus for the games. They will be wearing Reds shirts and sitting near the first-base line "so they can heckle him," she said.