The Cincinnati Reds' first baseman Joey Votto has won this year's Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, honoring MLB players who best exemplify the giving character of Gehrig, a hall of famer who died from ALS in 1941.
Votto is the fifth member of the Reds to win the award, presented by the Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity, headquartered in Oxford, Ohio: Pete Rose won in 1969; Johnny Bench in 1975; Barry Larkin in 1994 and Danny Graves in 2002.
Other past recipients of the award include Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Derek Jeter.
"Joey Votto is a leader in our clubhouse and sets the example for our players on how to conduct themselves on and off the field," the Reds' President and General Manager Dick Williams said in a statement. "His engagement in the community has quietly encouraged others on our team to do the same."
As examples of his altruistic leadership, the team points to Votto's work with young boys and girls at the P&G MLB Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy. In fact, a building in the center even bears his name. The 34-year-old also makes regular appearances at Redsfest and other team charitable events.
Even those outside of Cincinnati are familiar with Votto's character. In August 2017, Votto's interaction with a young fan suffering from cancer went viral. After hitting his 34th home run of the season, Votto delivered his bat and jersey to Walter Herbert (also known as "Superbubz"), whom Votto had met a week earlier on a clubhouse tour courtesy of the Make A Wish foundation. Herbert lost his battle with cancer on October 6, 2017, and Votto attended the visitation.
The August interaction won Votto the MLB Award for Best Player-Fan Interaction, which he accepted in Herbert's honor.