Toms River’s Frazier Joins List of Local MLB Alumni
By Phil Stilton
For Toms River native, Todd Frazier, making headlines is nothing new. The Toms River baseball standout first made headlines back in 1998 when he was the winning pitcher of record in Toms River East Little League’s word series win over Japan. Frazier is not alone in Toms River. He now joins a handful of Ocean County residents who are now part of the Major League Baseball alumni. The ones who got to the show.
While Frazier is the newest member of the Toms River MLB club, Andy Messersmith is perhaps the grandfather of the club. Messersmith, who was born in Toms River way back in 1945 was selected 12th overall in the 1966 draft by the California Angels. Messersmith had a 12 year career where he saw action with the Angels, Dodgers, Braves and Yankees. As a pitcher, he posted a career 130-99 record with a lifetime 2.86 earned run average. Impressive, even by today’s standards.
Most notable in the club is Bayville native and former New York Yankees pitcher Al Leiter who made major headlines back when he made his MLB debut with a 4-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Yankee Stadium in 1987. The Yankees didn’t have much patience for Leiter and didn’t appreciate his link to the shore area as much as residents did and we were all sad to see him traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1989 for Jessie Barfield. Barfield was supposed to be the Yankees replacement for Dave Winfield, but us New York Fans never gave Barfield a chance either. Leiter bounced around from team to team, playing for the Blue Jays, Marlins and Mets before finishing his career where it started, in pinstripes in 2005. Leiter finished his career with a 162-132 record.
Leiter’s older brother Mark also played in the major leagues for 11 years. Mark, like Al, got his big league break with the Yankees, pitching 8 games in 1990 before being dealt to the Detroit Tigers early in the 1991 season. Mark went on to play for 8 different teams before retiring in 2001. He currently runs a pitching academy here in Toms River.
The Leiters aren’t the only brother duo from the area to make the big leagues. Todd Frazier’s older brother Jeff Frazier made the big leagues in 2010 and played 9 games for the Detroit Tigers.
Perhaps the most famous major leaguer with ties to our area is New York Mets 1986 World Series hero, Mookie Wilson, who lived in Lakewood for many years.
As for Todd Frazier, he saw a lot of playing time last season due to the injury of Reds starting third baseman Scott Rolen. In 41 games, Frazier belted 6 home runs and had 5 doubles. Despite his .232 batting average, his ability to crush baseballs made its way around the league. He’s now preparing to keep his job with the Reds for the 2012 season.