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Toronto-born baseball star Joey Votto takes a swing at chess in his hometown

Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto has been spotted playing chess at a local Toronto club in recent weeks. (AP Photo/Matt York and Instasgram/Joey Votto) Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto has been spotted playing chess at a local Toronto club in recent weeks. (AP Photo/Matt York and Instasgram/Joey Votto)
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If you ask George Supol what he thinks about six-time MLB All-Star Joey Votto, he’ll tell you he’s got a great attitude and serves as a positive role model, especially for younger players.

But Supol’s not talking about the Toronto-born baseball player’s abilities on the field. He’s talking about how Votto plays chess.

The Cincinnati Reds’ first baseman has been coming to the Annex Chess Club (ACC), just north of Bathurst and Bloor streets, every week for a few months now, according to Supol.

“The reaction has been very positive,” the ACC director told CTV News Toronto in an email.

News of Votto’s presence at the local chess club was no secret, though. The 39-year-old Torontonian has been posting about his visits since the beginning of the year.

On Jan. 10, Votto announced his first chess win at the club on Instagram, attributing his success to the barley soup he had for lunch that day.

Then, on Jan. 16, Votto was seen taking the GO Train and the TTC to make an appearance at the Monday night chess gathering.

As an observer, Supol said he thinks that Votto is “truly happy” when he makes the weekly trip to the club in the Annex.

“Joey is a great guy and a fantastic baseball player. We're very happy that he has chosen ACC as his home club,” he said.

In another post to Instagram,Votto said that finding a group that allows him to be social and do something challenging/fun has “been a gift.”

“Annex Chess Club, thank you for welcoming me,” Votto wrote.

While it’s hard to say whether or not the draw of Votto’s presence at the downtown Toronto chess club has led to an increase in attendance overall, Supol said membership has been steadily increasing anyways.

“Chess is difficult to master and there is always room for improvement at every level. We need great chess players to inspire the rest of us,” he said.

The length of Votto’s residency at the ACC is still up in the air as reports have indicated he could be ready to return to the Reds as early as this season.

In the meantime, Supol said players at the club look forward to seeing him when his schedule allows, especially in the offseason.

“ACC's fundamental philosophy has always been ‘Chess for everyone!’ — whether you're a sports superstar like Joey or just an average joe,” Supol said.

With files from Abby O’Brien 

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