Thinking inside the box

IN THE MIDDLE of a game last summer, Joey Votto walked over to teammate Todd Frazier in the Reds' dugout and apologized. It had nothing to do with anything that had happened on the field. In fact, Votto was on the DL with a left knee injury, and Frazier, an infielder, wasn't in the lineup that day. Votto took advantage of the opportunity to simply tell Frazier he was sorry for not investing the time to get to know his teammate. "I take the blame for this," Votto said. "I don't know you that well, and I want to get to know you better."

The apology surprised Frazier but not nearly as much as the fact that Votto had approached him at all. Votto doesn't talk much in the clubhouse and always seems preoccupied. So Frazier saw an opening and took it. "Joe, since we're speaking the truth here," he said, "you're a little different. But I respect you 10 times more for coming up and talking with me."

Votto's teammates understand the 29-year-old first baseman in the way most of us comprehend the universe: He's reliable and omnipresent, but at the same time he's so remote and deep that they aren't entirely sure what makes him work. They are in awe of him, his prowess and erudition as a hitter, and how much emotional and physical effort he puts into each pitch of each at-bat of each game.