TORONTO — Given Canada's love for all things hockey, Cincinnati Reds star Joey Votto was as surprised to win the Lou Marsh Trophy a second time as he was the first.
The 34-year-old first baseman from Toronto was chosen by a panel of sports journalists from across Canada as the country's athlete of the year in 2017.
Votto also got the nod in 2010 for the award, which is named after a former Toronto Star sports editor.
"Whenever I hear I'm up for this award or that I'm considered amongst a group of athletes, typically, it's a gaggle of hockey players and then a few different athletes, both male and female in other sports," Votto said Tuesday on a conference call.
"I usually think 'well, it will likely go to the male hockey player' and I think winning it a second time, especially amongst so many talented Canadian hockey players is another achievement."
Other 2017 finalists were cross-country skier Alex Harvey, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, curler Rachel Homan and moguls skier Mikael Kingsbury.
Swimmer Penny Oleksiak captured the honour in 2016.
"It's a very big deal to me," Votto said. "When I won it the first time, I had to look at the list and look at all the different athletes, male, female, different sports. I was in awe of the company I was lucky enough to join.
"Now that I've won it a second time, the same sort of thing, I had to look it up again and see all the wonderful names that I've joined."
Votto came within a whisker of winning his second National League MVP award this season, losing to Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton by just two points.
"I came up short on the Most Valuable Player award for the National League this year, but in a way, winning this award kind of makes up for that," he said.
Votto made a great case to win this year's NL MVP. He started all 162 games for Cincinnati and led Major League Baseball in on-base percentage, walks and intentional walks.
He reached base an MLB-best 321 times, breaking his own club record of 319 set two seasons before.
Votto also became only the third player in MLB history to produce at least 179 hits, 36 homers and 134 walks with 83 strikeouts or fewer in a single season.
The other two are Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, who combined to accomplish that feat seven times.
Fergie Jenkins and Larry Walker are the only other baseball players to win the Lou Marsh Trophy and Votto became the first baseball player to win it twice.
The Lou Marsh Trophy has been awarded since 1936 with a three-year hiatus during the Second World War.
The Canadian Press