Saying his comments came from an "absolutely silly, short-sighted, selfish place," Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto apologized Wednesday for saying that he doesn’t care about Canada, Canadian baseball or his hometown of Toronto.
Votto distanced himself from his home country Tuesday after being asked on a Yahoo Sports baseball podcast about James Paxton‘s recent no-hitter. Votto later issued a statement saying he was "terribly ashamed," and apologized for the comments again Wednesday on a conference call.
"I cringed hearing it because I’m so embarrassed by what I said," Votto said. "I feel very strongly that it couldn’t be less in line with how I feel about Canadian baseball, Toronto and James Paxton."
Paxton, from Ladner, B.C., threw a no-hitter for the Seattle Mariners last week in Toronto, becoming the first Canadian in Major League Baseball history to do so on home soil.
"I don’t care almost at all about Canadian baseball," Votto said on the podcast. "I wasn’t raised inside of Canadian baseball really. I’m coming up on half of my life being in the United States working and being supported by American baseball."
Votto, the 2010 National League MVP, did clarify in the interview that he was happy for Paxton as a baseball player, but not as a fellow Canadian.
"As far as Toronto, and Canadian baseball, and the country of Canada, and (James Paxton) being Canadian, I don’t care at all," Votto said on the podcast. "(Paxton), or the Jays, or Canada in general may disagree with that, but I really couldn’t give a rat’s ass about that."
Social media lit up as news of the comments circulated Tuesday night. Outfielder Dalton Pompey of Mississauga, Ont., currently with triple-A Buffalo after a stint with the Blue Jays, posted a reply on Twitter to a Yahoo story link.
"Damn Joey, tell us how u really feel. Smh (shake my head)," Pompey tweeted.
Votto took questions for about 15 minutes on a conference call before the Reds’ afternoon game at San Francisco. He called his podcast comments "a complete miss by me."
"It couldn’t have been more cringe-worthy," he said. "I just did everything wrong and it came from a bad place. I am so regretful."
Drafted by the Reds in 2002 out of Toronto’s Richview Collegiate Institute, Votto made his big-league debut in 2007 and has spent his entire career with Cincinnati.
While in the minor leagues, Votto played for the national team at the World Cup. He also made appearances for Canada at the World Baseball Classic in 2009 and 2013.
Baseball Canada national teams director Greg Hamilton said Votto is a great teammate who has been "tremendously supportive" of the program.
"I’ve always judged people by their actions and not so much their words," Hamilton said from Ottawa. "His actions have showed complete care and respect. He’s been heavily involved with who we are and with our national team program, and been very consistent in doing it."
Votto, a five-time all-star, has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in each of the last three years.
In a statement on the Canadian Baseball Network website, Votto said the podcast interview stirred feelings of resentment for not being picked to play on Canada’s team at the 2004 Olympics, not being selected for some national junior teams and not being drafted by the Blue Jays out of high school.
"Clearly my reply came out of a side of jealousy for a Canadian baseball athlete being celebrated in the city of Toronto," he wrote. "It was an odd reply and one I am terribly ashamed of. I go back to Toronto each off-season and feel renewed every time I cross the border to my home and native land. I would not be where I am now without the efforts of so many Canadian baseball people and the fans of Canadian baseball.
"To James Paxton, the Blue Jays, the Toronto fans, the women and men all across Canada that work so hard to promote and support Canadian baseball, I am sorry for my selfish comments and I humbly ask for your forgiveness."
Last month, Votto was presented with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award for the seventh time in eight years. The honour is given annually to the Canadian player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball’s highest ideals.
Votto also won the Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s athlete of the year in 2010 and 2017. He declined to play at the World Baseball Classic in March 2017, saying he wanted to use the pre-season period to prepare for the regular season.
"There’s a home and a place here for Joey at any time where Joey is available and able," Hamilton said. "We would love to have him in any context. We value him obviously as a player and we value him every bit as much as a human being and a person.
"Personally my view is he’s a really good caring person that does get it. That’s