TR Magazine Exclusive: Todd Frazier talks about his major league experience
By Phil Stilton
An injury to Cincinnati Reds third baseman Scott Rolen and a 15 day stint on the disabled list on July 21st gave Toms River native and 1998 Toms River East Little League champion Todd Frazier a second chance in the major leagues. Cincinnati recalled Frazier from the Louisville Bats of the Independent League on Saturday, July 30 and he joined the team later that afternoon in Cincinnati where he was penciled in as the Reds’ starting third baseman. Frazier went 1 for three and drove in three runs after he cleared the bases with a 7th inning base clearing double that solidified the Reds’ 11-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.
His 5th major league base hit came July 31 in a night game at home in the 4th inning against San Francisco Giants starter Barry Zito. After a week on the team, batting .250, Frazier belted his first career home run, a solo blast into the left center field bleachers of the Reds’ Great American Ball Park. Frazier took a Zito pitch deep to left centerfield for his first major league home run. The run gave the Reds a 4-0 lead over the Giants, who they ended up defeating.
As far as his home run ball goes, Frazier said the fan who caught it wanted to return the ball to him, so he traded for an autographed bat. As for hitting his first home run, Frazier said it was something he’s thought about his whole life and finally happened “I can’t put the feeling into words, I just feel blessed.” he said “It was good to hit the home run, but it was also nice to sweep the Giants and get the win. It’s just a great feeling.”
Frazier’s home run can also signal a musical change in the Reds dugout. Where most major leaguers choose to come to bat with hard rock or rap to pump them up, Frazier says he takes a different approach. He prefers Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me”. “It just relaxes me at the plate.” Frazier said. Cincinnati fans have also taken notice, complimenting Frazier on his choice of music he said.
Frazier was initially called up by the Reds on May 23rd, but was sent back to Louisville after just one at bat, a strike out in the major leagues.
Frazier said his one at bat in May inspired him to play harder to get back to the Reds. “It’s just a situation where it’s different now.” he said “When they want somebody on the team, unfortunately somebody else has to go and it was me. It drove me to get back up here.” And after his first big league dinger, what did manager Dusty Baker have to say? “He congratulated me and said ‘Keep it going kid!’”Frazier said.
But Frazier, grateful for a second chance wants to make an impression this time around. “I’m just playing it by ear every day and do as much as I can to help the team while I’m here.” he said “I can only hope Dusty Baker sees it and keeps me up here.” Driving in three runs is definitely one way to get the manager’s attention at your first day on the job. Frazier followed up with another solo home run a few days later in Houston, Texas against the Astros. He’s been raising a lot of eyebrows in the National League with his power, including a few long fly balls and solid base hits.
It was a long road for Frazier to get to this point. He was the winning pitcher in the 1998 Little League world championship game that put the Toms River East Little League in the international spotlight. After his little league career, Frazier went on to excel in baseball at Toms River High School South and then played ball for Rutgers University. He was initially drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 37th round of the 2004 amateur draft, but finished college, batting .377 in his senior year. After college, Frazier was then selected as a first round draft pick by the Cincinnati Reds.
Over the next 4 seasons, Frazier’s consistency and power moved him up the ranks of the Reds farm system, bouncing around until making it to the AAA Louisville Bats in 2009. In May Frazier said he was happy to have finally made the big leagues. “I’m a major leaguer now and nobody can take that away.” he said.
Frazier also says he looks back at his 1998 Little League World Series Championship as something he will never forget and gave some words of advice for the local Jackson Holbrook Little League team who played in the state championships. He sent a video message to the team before their first state tournament game. “Just remember to play and have fun and enjoy everything that’s happening around you. It goes by in a second.” he said “It’s something you’ll never forget and getting to the states is an unbelievable experience in itself. The competition at that level is so competitive and New Jersey Little League in itself is very tough and competitive.” He offers some words of advice to all local little leaguers. “Just keep having fun, keep practicing and keep playing. Keep it fun. We used to have home run derbies. Don’t put pressure on yourself and enjoy it while it lasts.”
Frazier went on to give young local little leaguers some more tips about his road to the major leagues, which started right here in Toms River back in the early 1990’s. “Stay focused on the little things. Field ground balls. Defense is just as important as offense. Pay attention to your footwork and practice as much as you can. You never know who is going to be watching you.” he said “You can be playing a game and there can be a scout, somebody with a school, you never know, so always make sure you’re taking care of the little things because that’s what they look for. Challenge yourself in practice. Make your mistakes and learn in practice.”
Life in the major leagues also means time away from home for Frazier, and he says he misses a lot about the Toms River area. “Food. There’s nothing like Jersey food anywhere else. I also miss the beach and the boardwalk and my family.” he said “When I got sent back down in Philly I took a few days and came back home and went to the beach and had some Seaside boardwalk food. You can’t find Italian food like in New Jersey anywhere else.”
Frazier says the experience so far has been great. “It’s great to finally get here. You dream of this your whole life.” he said “And knowing that you’re here for a reason. I worked my butt off to get here!” Todd’s older brother Jeff also plays baseball. Last year, Jeff played a two week stint with the Detroit Tigers after a 7 year minor league career.
Check out the first issue of JTOWN Magazine for more photos and the complete story on Frazier’s big splash in the Major Leagues, due out on newstands next Friday. Photo Credits: Cincinatti Reds photos copyright 2011 Cincinatti Reds. May not be reproduced without express written consent from the Cincinatti Reds and Major League Baseball. Louisville Bats photo provided by the Louisville Bats. All Rights Reserved.