Sportress of Blogitude

Joey Votto touts media’s value when addressing current clubhouse ban

Cincinnati Reds star Joey Votto recently highlighted how the media plays an integral role in fostering fans’ connections to the game amid the news that Major League Baseball will limit reporters’ access to players due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

MLB, along with NBA, NHL and MLS, issued a joint statement on Monday announcing that media and non-essential personnel will be denied access to locker rooms, clubhouses and the like to limit exposure and potential transmission of the coronavirus.

Reacting to the developments related to the precautions the league will take at least in the short term, Votto was asked by C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic if he would welcome such a ban on a permanent basis.

The Reds slugger provided a thoughtful, measured and insightful response about how the media serves an invaluable role in forging fans’ relationships with both the game and the players.

“No, I definitely think most of — I’d say a vast majority of the stories involve nuance, emotion, personal relationships,” Votto said. “Even if they’re incorrect, a perception of how someone reacted or how a player reacted can be told through facial expressions, getting to know that person and tone.

“I think that if you don’t have that on a daily basis, you don’t get to share those insights and frankly, most fans don’t care about the balls and strikes and runs and wins — well, I guess wins — but runs, but they care about the person. They want to feel like they’re close to the performer in any sport. I think everyone in the media is the bridge that connects the athlete with the public and without that close proximity, I don’t personally think you get that human component.”

Having players react to the events of a game in such an intimate setting like a clubhouse arguably fosters an environment where players feel more comfortable, thereby likely inspiring more candid, not canned, responses.

There invariably have been incidents in clubhouse settings over the years involving members of the media and players, although who was at fault was entirely dependent on the particular circumstances of what transpired.

That being said, something intrinsically unique related to the human element of baseball would be lost forever if clubhouses were ever permanently closed to the media.