MIAMI, Aug. 1 (UPI) — Cincinnati Reds star Joey Votto says feelings of being ‘isolated’ and a desire to correct fans’ false belief that he had a serious, boring personality led him to use TikTok and others social media platforms.
“So far this year, I’ve made that attempt,” Votto said Monday at LoanDepot Park in Miami. “It’s definitely a leap for me. I don’t usually put myself out there.”
At 38, Votto is the Reds’ oldest player, but his star shines brightest on a TikTok platform driven by users under the age of 19. Votto joined the Reds in the 2002 MLB Draft, years before TikTok and its predecessors Facebook, Instagram and Twitter existed.
Votto’s TikTok posts typically get the most engagement. They attract an average audience of over 1.2 million people. Votto combines trendy dance moves, viral songs and even dental appointment sequences with weird expressions, jokes and costumes.
The Reds, who have one of MLB’s worst records at 41-61 on Tuesday morning, are 5-0 this season in games after Votto’s posts on TikTok.
“The guy is finally letting it out and showing his real personality,” Reds second goal Jonathan India said. “Not many people see that side of him. He’s so serious on the pitch.”
Votto says the solitary nature of baseball is what initially drew him to the sport. The self-proclaimed introvert “learned to love” the game by throwing a baseball against a wall.
He further immersed himself in baseball with a voracious desire to become a great hitter. This hunger led Votto to devour The Science of Typing by Ted Williams on several occasions. He often re-reads the baseball book by his “icon” in times of doubt about his abilities.
Fans have seen Votto use his intense work ethic to become one of the best hitters in baseball. Along the way, he said, they also began to assume that his personality matched his robotic movements and methodical preparation.
“Sometimes I felt a bit isolated,” Votto said. “Fans look in your direction and sometimes tell you who you are. I’d like to be part of that conversation.”
The 16-year-old veteran said he avoided social outings earlier in his career so he could “save energy” for the baseball field. He didn’t want to be distracted either.
The six-time All-Star and 2010 National League MVP initially doubted a potential balance between stellar play and an active social media persona. He says his confidence is higher now and realizes he was “burnt out” earlier in his career due to self-imposed expectations, which led to “no social life”.
“I worry about [social media] being a distraction, so I pace myself,” Votto said. “But I also have a side of me that likes to have fun and be silly.”
Reds manager David Bell wasn’t managing the team when Votto made his MLB debut in 2007, but he’s watched the veteran first baseman grow as a player and a person over the past four seasons.
The Reds signed Bell in 2019, a year after Votto made his final All-Star appearance. Votto had one of his worst seasons that year, which led to a bench. These struggles continued into 2020.
Votto then changed his swing, focusing more on power than just base, and hit 36 homers in 2021, his highest since 2017.
These changes to his approach to the plate, coupled with his new digital bridge to fans, have led the Toronto native to find even more joy in his favorite game.
“He’s just in a great place,” Bell said of Votto. “I enjoyed all my time with him and our interactions around the clubhouse.
“He just seems to be in a really good place personally.”
Like his typing, Votto remains meticulous in his approach to releasing new content. He said he only spends “minutes a week” on Instagram and keeps his tweets brief due to the “stress” he feels on that platform.
He said he tries to avoid wasting time out of his days by not scrolling through his TikTok feed endlessly. He prefers to create content, read comments and respond to some fans in order to strengthen his connection.
While admittedly less “G-rated” behind the scenes, Votto prioritizes posts that are “light” and non-offensive to his followers.
He consults with Reds communications staff, teammates and others before posting. He even enlisted opposing Atlanta Braves players to make a dancing appearance earlier this year.
“I have a bit more advantage, but I have to sleep at night,” Votto said. “I can’t watch a grandma, grandpa or 5 year old watching my videos [if they had] sounds of gunshots and swearing.
“I don’t want anyone to get discouraged or feel any worse than what I’m posting. … I want to bring people joy, and most importantly, I want to be authentic.”
That authenticity carried over to Votto’s young teammates, including second baseman India. The 25-year-old, who won 2021 Rookie of the Year honors, considers Votto a mentor.
“He’s not just the serious, hard-working baseball player everyone thinks he is,” India said.
“He lives his life and has a life other than baseball. … But he still wants to win every day, no matter what. That’s what teams need and what Cincinnati needs, a guy like that .
“He’s rubbed off on me so much that I’m going to continue that feeling with what he brings to this team.”