Bearded Joey Votto poses for snapshot with big fan Dick Vitale

David Brown

Viva Italia! According to a tweet by basketball personality (and huge baseball fan) Dick Vitale, he ran into Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto in the Sarasota, Fla. area, where both men winter. Earlier stories this offseason indicated Votto had been growing a beard, but only the hard evidence of a camera phone can confirm it.

Votto's facial hair serves him well, in a Jeff Reardon-sort-of-way. And having a beard, as everyone knows, is worth four or five more home runs a season per 162 games played. It's too bad we'll never see him take this look to Great American Ball Park, even though the Reds dropped their strict no-facial-hair policy after 1999. It would attract too much attention to a guy who just likes to blend in.

If you have a beard and would like to have your picture taken with Vitale, he's got a message for you:

Vitale is right about Votto being the best pure hitter in the NL. He could be so much more pure, however, if he swung with a beard.

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