Joey Votto explains the story behind his Players Weekend uniform name, “Tokki 2”

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Major League Baseball released the personalized jerseys for the inaugural Players Weekend, scheduled for this upcoming weekend. Craig highlighted some of the more interesting choices, like Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager‘s “Corey’s Brother.”

One that flew under the radar was Reds first baseman Joey Votto‘s “Tokki 2.” It actually has a really cool story behind it, which Votto explained on Wednesday. It involves outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who was Votto’s teammate on the Reds in 2013. Via MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon:

“He was performing really well to the point that I kept telling him all the time, ‘I’m trying to keep up with you, I’m trying to catch you. How can I catch you? How can I beat you on the season?'” Votto explained. “About halfway through the year, I said, ‘Have you ever been to a dog track?’ He said, ‘Yep.’ I said, ‘You know those rabbits in the middle that spin around the center of the dog track that dogs chase but can never catch?’ He said, ‘Yep.’ I said, ‘That’s how I feel about you. No matter how much I chase, I can’t catch you.’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a tokki.'”

“Tokki” is the Korean word for rabbit.

“Every day, we would say what’s up to each other, and we’d call each other Tokki,” Votto added. “Maybe three-quarters into the year and by the end of it, he said, ‘You’re my tokki.’ He was basically saying, ‘I’m trying to catch up with you now.’ By the end, he was Tokki 1 and I was Tokki 2. It’s just kind of a full-circle thing that we both put the word rabbit on the back of our jerseys. I thought it was kind of cool that we got to use a Korean word and got to share something with a former teammate. It’s an inside joke between the two of us that we get to share with everybody else now.”

What strikes me about this story is how Votto adopted some of Choo’s culture, in this case his language. When foreigners come over to the U.S., they’re expected to assimilate, forgoing so many things that have made them who they are, like mannerisms, language, habits, lifestyle choices, etc. People from the U.S. very rarely go the other way. Votto did and it resulted in a great friendship with a teammate.