CINCINNATI -- As the realization took hold, Reds first baseman Joey Votto wasn't afraid to let the tears flow and the delight of the moment wash over him.
On Monday, Votto learned that he was named the National League's Most Valuable Player for 2010.
"Not to be dramatic or anything -- after I was told, I couldn't help but cry because I know how much something like this meant to me and would have meant to my father," said Votto, who lost his father following his sudden death in August 2008.
In balloting that took place at the end of the regular season by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Votto received 31 out of a possible 32 first-place votes and 443 points to earn his first MVP. It prevented Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols from winning his third consecutive MVP and fourth overall.
Although he was the NL Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner at first base, Pujols was second in the voting with 279 points, netting the other first-place vote -- from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch -- and 21 second-place votes. Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez was next with 240 points. He appeared second on seven ballots. Reds third baseman Scott Rolen landed in 14th place, garnering 26 points.
Speaking on a conference call from the back porch of his home in Sarasota, Fla., Votto admitted a nervousness started in the past week as the MVP announcement drew closer. As one who rarely reads or watches stories regarding baseball, especially when he is the subject, Votto admitted to reading the comparisons between himself and Pujols and how the two stacked up in the MVP race.
When the results were revealed, the 27-year-old Votto was "shocked" by how wide the margin was over Pujols.
"I thought I must have snuck it in there. I didn't think it would be so conclusive," Votto said. "I missed out on unanimous by one. I have no other word to use other than surprise."
It was the 12th time a Reds player won the NL MVP and the first time since Barry Larkin in 1995. The Cardinals have won the most NL MVPs, with 17, second to the Yankees' 20 in the American League. The American League MVP will be revealed by the BBWAA on Tuesday.
Clearly, the voters did not penalize Votto for not leading any of the three Triple Crown categories. Gonzalez won the batting title with a .336 average, and Pujols had the most home runs (42) and RBIs (118).
Reds NL MVP Winners
Still, Votto finished among the top three in 11 offensive statistical categories and was first in important stats like slugging percentage (.600), on-base percentage (.424) and, of course, on-base plus slugging percentage (1.024). He was second in the NL with a .324 average and was third in both home runs, with 37, and RBIs, with 113 -- all career highs. He was tied for fourth with 106 runs scored, was sixth with 177 hits and fifth with 91 walks. His .349 average on the road led the NL, and he was second, just ahead of Gonzalez and Pujols, with a .369 average with runners in scoring position.
And perhaps most important, Votto helped get the Reds to the NL Central title and their first playoff berth since the Larkin-led club won the division in 1995.
"It had been a long time since we went to the playoffs. I think that's the reason why I won," Votto said. "That being said, it's pretty freaking awesome to have beaten Albert Pujols for the MVP."
When Votto was relatively new to the league, Pujols once took him aside near the batting practice cage and offered advice. Both players share the same agent.
"I don't like throwing the word 'great' around. Albert is probably the only great guy I would mention," Votto said. "There are only five or six great players in our game. The rest are very good. That's not a commentary on us. I just don't like using that word. Albert is the great player. Myself and Carlos Gonzalez are learning how to be Major Leaguers and establish ourselves."
Reds general manager Walt Jocketty used to be the GM of the Cardinals and has known Pujols since drafting him.
"They are similar in the way they approach the game, their preparation, their discipline and their drive to be the best," Jocketty said after Monday's results were revealed. "Joey has demonstrated that the last couple of years. It's a real accomplishment for Joey with the work he's done to strive to be the best."
Once considered below average defensively as he came into the league, Votto also put the work in and improved. After working last winter with Double-A coach Ryan Jackson up to six days a week, he committed only five errors and was in the Gold Glove conversation.
"I really made a point last year to try and nip all of my weaknesses in the bud," Votto said. "I'm going to do that this year. Albert won the Gold Glove, and it'd be kind of cool to win one of those, too."
In 2009, Votto was nationally known primarily for being a player who spent a month on the disabled list to deal with depression and anxiety caused by difficulties with his emotions following the death of his father, Joseph. Even after returning and posting strong numbers with a .322 average and 25 homers, it happened well out of the spotlight since Cincinnati was out of contention.
This year, no one could ignore what Votto did on the field. After being left off of the original NL All-Star team, he made the squad after more than 13 million fans added him to the roster via MLB.com's Final Vote. On Aug. 30, Votto became the first Reds player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated since Ken Griffey Jr. in 2004.
Being able to play the whole season without personal issues affecting him, Votto believed, was a huge step forward.
"I had a really difficult time getting over the death of my father. It's still difficult for me sometimes now," he said. "It's hard when you lose someone in your life that means so much. It was a difficult 2009 and quite a bit less difficult in 2010. I think that was definitely a big reason why I was able to stay on the ball field every day and succeed and make progress and feel better about life."
Votto's MVP couldn't have come at a more opportune time, financially. He is eligible for arbitration for the first time and due to get a large raise from his $525,000 salary from this past season. Jocketty has made it clear he wouldn't mind signing Votto to a multiyear contract, but talks have yet to commence.
When asked about his contract situation, Votto was non-committal.
"How open I am to that, I don't know. You'd have to see the figures and talk about the years and stuff like that," Votto said. "Because we haven't had any conversations about it, it wouldn't be fair to me or the Reds or anybody involved to even comment on that. I've got nothing, man.
"You know what? That's' OK right now. I'm enjoying my time off. I don't really want to be peppered with contract stuff all offseason. That's not really free time. I'm trying to get away from the limelight and enjoy some anonymity. There's a time and a place for all that stuff. I'm just enjoying being the National League MVP."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.