Despite his success, playing in LLWS is still one of Frazier’s career highlights
QUEENS, N.Y. — Todd Frazier has been an MLB All-Star. He’s topped 25 home runs in a season five times and even won the MLB Home Run Derby in 2015 with the Cincinnati Reds. He has appeared in the postseason five times, including the 2017 American League Championship Series. He has walked through the hallowed hallways of Yankee Stadium while donning the iconic pinstripes.
Despite all this, playing in the 1998 Little League World Series with Toms River, New Jersey, is one of Frazier’s career highlights.
“How many guys can say they had the win in the Little League World Series Championship?” Frazier said on July 9 before the New York Mets hosted the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. “Not many. I wasn’t a pitcher either, I wasn’t as good. I was the No. 3 starter on the team. It’s definitely up there. It’s a top 5 moment of my career. It kind of kick-started me to be the person I am today and it helped me out to play in front of a lot people, of course.”
The current New York Mets third baseman was the starting shortstop on the East regional champions out of Toms River which captured the United States by storm as the “Beasts of the East, Toms River East.” Frazier went 4 for 4 in the 1998 title game, including a home run to lead off the game, and he ended it with a strikeout, pitching a clean sixth inning to earn the win and give his squad a 12-9 win over heavily favored Japan, which won two of the next three championships.
“I remember playing in the district final and playing in front of 5,000 people. That’s saying something. We knew what we had, we knew what we needed to do, there was a lot of luck involved and we just had a lot of fun,” Frazier said. “Our coaches did a great job. At every practice we had a home run derby or a fielding tournament. Then you look at Japan on the other side and they’re like a synchronized swimming team. It was unbelievable. We were the Bad News Bears of that Little League for sure.”
When he wasn’t at the plate hitting bombs into the bushes just beyond the outfield fence, or going 2-0 on the mound despite not being a regular pitcher, Frazier might’ve enjoyed his time off the field in South Williamsport even more. Sliding down the hill with dirt strips worn into the hill above the stadium, trading pins behind the stadium or even spending time in the grove playing ping-pong or swimming. Frazier enjoyed his two-week stay in South Williamsport and is anxious to get back almsot 20 years to the day.
“To see the pin trading, I got two boxes, man I’m going to be there the whole day until I really have to go out and play. … The pin trading I think is the most fun I ever had. Just trying to connive all the older men and women which pin is better. ‘I’m going to give you my pin once we win it all.’ I needed the best pins,” Frazier said. “(Little League President and CEO) Steve Keener does a great job up there. Living in the barracks as they call them was awesome.”
The soft-spoken and humble Frazier even enjoyed the spotlight after the Series. He and his teammates got to meet Alec Baldwin, Mark McGwire, Derek Jeter and they even appeared on the Rosie O’Donnell Show as well as countless other daily shows.
But on his first trip back to South Williamsport since 1998, Frazier isn’t so excited about playing at Bowman Field for the Little League Classic against the Phillies tonight — though he is eager to be back in a minor-league park to take him back to his early professional days. He’s more excited to meet kids who aspire to be in his position one day at the top of his profession. It’s a dream job for any Little Leaguer.
“Every time I do something like that with a camp or teach kids the game of baseball, they have some funny questions. When I met Mark McGwire, I was in awe. They get to meet Noah Syndergaard and I think they’re going to go nuts so I think it’s going to be cool,” Frazier said.
“Whatever dream you have in life, whether it’s baseball or not, stick to it because don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. I’m going to watch you play here. Work hard, play the game like no one has ever seen you play before.”