"...leaving soon for Florida"
by Dan Cleary
TOMS RIVER, N.J—Todd Frazier was running some errands around town while conducting an interview with this magazine on his cell phone. Frazier was getting ready to head down to Florida and twice during the interview he was interrupted by adoring fans.
“Yes, I’m leaving soon for Florida,” you could hear Frazier say. “Oh, thank so much, I’ll do my best.”
You didn’t have to hear the questions he was fielding, but Frazier was gracious and humble to everyone he spoke with including this magazine. When asked if that happens a lot, Frazier said, yes, but he doesn’t mind it at all.
“I think it is great,” said Frazier. “People follow your career and I really appreciate it. It has been that way since Little League.”
Such is life when you are Todd Frazier, baseball hero, walking the streets of Toms River.
Frazier burst onto the national scene as a member of the Toms River Little League team that captured the heart of the nation when it won the 1998 Little League World Series after it topped Kashima, Japan 12-9 to give the United States its first crown since 1993. Frazier struck out the final batter to seal the win and also hit a key homer earlier in the game.
Now 10 years later, Frazier is no longer a baby-faced, 5-foot-2, 104-pound baseball prodigy, but a bona fide superstar in the making with a 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame that was made for bashing baseballs.
Frazier, a 2007 consensus All-American and BIG EAST Conference Player of the Year at Rutgers University, is looking to return to the national scene again, this time as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. Frazier is currently at Reds camp in Sarasota, Fla. after playing his first summer of professional baseball for Cincinnati’s rookie ball affiliate in Billings, Mont. and its Class A affiliate in the Midwest League, the Dayton (Ohio) Dragons.
In 41 games at Billings, the righty slugger hit .319 with five homers and 25 RBI. He joined the club in July after to agreeing to terms with the Reds, who selected him with the 34th pick overall in the first round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in June after his junior year with the Scarlet Knights. He was the club’s second first-round pick. Cincinnati selected Pennsylvania high school catcher Devin Mesoraio with the 15th selection.
Frazier, a shortstop, finished the summer with a six-game stint with the Dragons and hit .318. The Dragons went 78-62 overall and fell in the Midwest League playoffs to South Bend (Ind.).
“I knew a little of what to expect from my older brothers because they had done it,” said Frazier, 22, of his older brothers, Jeff, 25, also a former Rutgers star who is in the Seattle Mariners organization and Charlie, 27, who spent five years in the Florida Marlins chain. “I knew there would be long bus rides and you wouldn’t eat right, but I adapted well and I loved every second of it. I just love playing baseball, it doesn’t matter where.”
Heading out to Billings was a little bit of culture shock, to say the least, for Frazier, a Jersey Shore guy. Growing up minutes from the ocean is a lot different from living in Big Sky country.
“It was a different lifestyle, but I liked it,” said Frazier of Billings. “The people were friendly and I liked it there a lot.”
As with most college players, making the adjustment from metal bats to wood bats and the depth of the pitching talent in the pros were the biggest obstacles for Frazier, he said.
“It took a while to get used to the wood bat and the pitching is better, but I saw some great pitching in the BIG EAST,” he said. “In one of my first games at Billings, I had a 3-0 count and I saw a curve and it was a perfect pitch. Then the guy threw me another curve and I fouled it off with a check swing. I was certain he was going to throw me a fastball, but that is how it is in the pros. They can really work the count.”
But like he has his whole baseball career, Frazier proved he was a quick study and gained a promotion to Dayton and impressed Dragons’ skipper Donnie Scott, a former Major Leaguer.
“He is as solid as a player as they come,” said Scott. “He has good hands, but he does have limited range at shortstop, so I don’t know if his future is there. But, I’ll tell you, this guy’s bat will take him where he is going to go. He has an outstanding makeup and he can really swing the bat. He has some areas to improve, but he will make the adjustments fast and he should go right through the (Reds) system. I think we got a real good one on our hands.”
Frazier’s fast learning curve also caught the eye of Terry Reynolds, the Reds director of player development, who is very high on the former Toms River South High School star.
“Overall, we are real pleased,” said Reynolds. “Especially, when you consider he had to make the adjustments on the fly when he signed in July. But he jumped in with both feet and didn’t miss a beat. He is the type of kid who won’t let anything get in his way and he will work hard to do it.
“He plays with a smile on his face and you can tell he just enjoys being out there playing baseball,” added Reynolds. “We hope he improves every year and goes up a level a year at a time. But time will only tell.”
Reynolds echoed Scott’s concerns about Frazier’s defensive range at short. He praised Frazier’s arm, hands and mental approach to defense, but he added with his size, there is always the chance he could move to a corner infield or outfield spot in the future.
“We will start him off at short, but that also depends on where he is assigned, so he might jump around,” said Reynolds. “But wherever he plays, he can still hit. He is a little unorthodox, but he consistently puts the meat of the bat on the ball.”
Another thing that may prompt a position switch is that the Reds have great depth at shortstop in their system. They drafted two shortstops after Frazier in 2007 in Zachary Cozart of University of Mississippi and Puerto Rican high schooler Neftali Soto. The Reds already sport two great prospects in Paul Janish and Chris Valaika.
“We do have great shortstops, but you can’t worry about it. You can only worry about yourself,” said Frazier. “I’m up for anything, but my main goal is to play short. I’ve been playing it all my life, but I will play catcher if it will get me to the Major Leagues.”
Frazier’s journey to professional baseball started in his family’s yard with his daily battles with his brothers, said Frazier. “Whether it was wiffleball or basketball, we always go at it pretty good,” said Frazier. “It helped me learn how to play and how to win. Watching them play before me was really important and they have helped me a lot.”
Frazier took those lessons to the Little League diamond where Toms River made its magical run in the Summer of ’98. Frazier said playing in such a pressure-packed situation at such a young age has really helped become mentally tough.
“It was crazy playing before all those people,” said Frazier, whose team won the championship before a crowd of 41,200 at Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa. “At the time you really don’t think about it, but as I get older I realize how much it helped.
“When I struck out the last guy, the place went crazy and I went around looking for someone to hug,” added Frazier, who pitched two innings of relief and went 4-for-4. “The whole world was watching. It was unbelievable feeling. It put Toms River on the map and that was cool because Toms River is a great town.”
Frazier continued his career at Toms River South for legendary coach Ken Frank and his 650-plus career wins at the Ocean County powerhouse. After an All-State career, he was drafted in the 37th round by the Colorado Rockies in 2004, but he decided to head up the Jersey Turnpike and play for another legend in Rutgers coach Fred Hill Sr.
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (June 6, 2007) - Rutgers junior National Player of the Year candidate Todd Frazier (Toms River, NJ) is featured on MLB.com, the official website for Major League Baseball.
Click here to view the feature
Courtesy of Rutgers Scarlet Knights Baseball
“Both coaches have had a great influence on me,” said Frazier. “They taught so much about baseball and life.”
Frazier proved he wasn’t just a Little League All-Star at Rutgers and was a national Player of the Year candidate after hitting .377 with a school record 22 homers and 65 RBI for the Scarlet Knights (42-21), who won the BIG EAST regular season and tournament championships in 2007. While at Rutgers, Frazier was selected to play for the USA National Team and he left the Scarlet Knights in June as one their best players ever, owning numerous career records in just three short seasons.
“Toms River South has always been good to us and Todd is at the top of the list,” said Hill. “He has great skills and athleticism, which helps tremendously. He is a five-tool guy and it is a gigantic loss for us. But we wish him all the best.”
And his best is all Frazier can do right now as he tries to move up the ladder. He said he hopes to play for Sarasota of the Florida State League, which is the Reds’ advanced Class A team.
“That is what I’m hoping, but I know it is a business, so I will go anywhere they tell me,” Frazier said. “You just have to give it your all.”
Giving his all is all Frazier has done during his marvelous baseball career and there is no reason to think that will stop anytime in the near future. Just ask his fans.
# # #