Canadian Joey Votto and the Cincinnati Reds will start the unofficial second half of the baseball season with a one-game lead in the National League Central, while fans debate the first baseman's chances of making history.
Fresh off his first all-star appearance, Votto's quest for the Triple Crown resumes Friday when the Reds host the Colorado Rockies.
Boston Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski — better known as Yaz — was the 13th and most recent Triple Crown winner in 1967 when he led the American League in batting average (.326), home runs (44) and runs batted in (121).
Votto, 26, could become the first NL player since Joe Medwick in 1937 to accomplish the feat.
'He's arguably one of the top three hitters in the game.' — Reds' Jay Bruce on teammate Joey Votto
Through July 15, he was hitting .314 (tied for fifth in the NL) with 22 home runs (tied for first) and 60 RBIs (tied for seventh).
Those numbers weren't good enough to secure a spot in the first round of voting for Tuesday's 81st Midsummer Classic in Anaheim. Instead, the Etobicoke, Ont., native garnered 13.7 million votes in claiming the NL Final Vote balloting by fans.
"It's getting hard to ignore him," teammate Jay Bruce told MLB.com recently. "He's arguably one of the top three hitters in the game. He's been great. He goes about the game in a 100 per cent professional manner."
Triple Crown winners (since 1900)
Just don't ask the fourth-year major leaguer about his Triple Crown chances. It's a good bet the team-first player would quickly shift the focus to the Reds' aspirations for a division title.
For Votto, who leads the NL in on-base percentage (.422) and slugging percentage (.589), it's about performing at the highest level and becoming the best hitter possible.
"I'm just like everybody else. I want to succeed," said Votto. "I want to play well and be meaningful to the team. Good things come with that and they will."
In a survey conducted by MLB.com, 37 of 150 players polled named Votto the NL MVP for the first half of this season.
"He's a different dude," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He's very respectful on the field. He's very honourable. He takes care of himself. And I'm proud to say he's Canadian."
Come October, Votto might also be the game's 14th Triple Crown winner.