NEW YORK -- It was 8 a.m. and Todd Frazier needed a little more sleep. The New York Yankees third baseman had played the night before with his new team, so he craved some extra shut-eye. But his 3-year-old son, Blake, had other ideas.
“Dad?” Blake called.
"Go back to bed," his father whispered. "Daddy needs to sleep a little more.”
But Blake insisted: “I need to hit homers!”
Frazier smiled as he shared the story. “How do you say no to that?” he said. “I get up and throw about 20 and he says, ‘All right, I can go back to bed now.’ It was just the most unbelievable thing I have ever seen in my life. Those are the things you will cherish forever.”
Todd Frazier and his family have a ton of baseball memories to cherish. Frazier, 31, is a big league veteran, a two-time All-Star and a Little League World Series champion who achieved early fame when he got his picture taken, in his Toms River East uniform, standing next to Derek Jeter on the field at Yankee Stadium. His middle brother, Jeff, played nine games in the majors with the Tigers in 2010, while his oldest brother, Charlie, was a sixth-round draft pick by the Marlins who advanced to Double-A.
While Todd didn’t have a favorite team growing up, preferring to root for certain players, Jeff, who is three years older, was a Mets fan and Charlie, six years older, was a Yankees fan. Todd's team these days will have Charlie smiling all the way to the Bronx and Queens this week.
“That’s what I love about this,” Charlie said. “I’m the Yankee fan. Jeff is the Met fan. And Todd just smattered all around. Once he got traded to the Yankees, this is a dream come true.”
It wasn't the first dream to come true. When Todd's Toms River East team made its run to the Little League World Series title in 1998, it led to a pregame photo with the Yankees captain that has become a part of New York baseball lore.
“It was cool,” Frazier said. “It was unforgettable. You are at old Yankee Stadium, throwing the ball around, watching batting practice. It was a really, really cool experience and my teammates at the time, we had a lot of Yankee fans on that team.”
What stands out about Frazier -- and what has made him so popular in every clubhouse he has been in -- is that he is still just a regular guy from New Jersey. Todd treats everyone as equals, busting the chops of an Aaron Judge one minute and a clubhouse attendant the next.
“He’s very genuine,” said Jordan Descafano, who grew up with Frazier in Toms River and is still close with him. “I took my fiancée’s dad to the game last year. By the end of the game, he said, ‘I feel like I’ve known him for 10 years.’ He came up to him and gave him a hug after the game. That’s just the way he makes you feel, even if you’ve known him for one minute or your whole life.”
In 1995, Jeff Frazier's Toms River East team also made it to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and the Little League World Series, but lost before reaching the finals.
“In 1995, my brother went to the Little League World Series so it kind of put us on the map,” Todd Frazier said. “Everyone knew that the 9-year-old team -- I was 9 at the time -- it was like, ‘OK, who’s next?’ It is not just a one-time deal. We knew we had a good team coming up. We won the 10-year-old tournament. We won the 11-year-old tournament. When we got to 12, it was like, ‘Here we go.’ When we played against the rival Little League team, we were playing in front of 2,000 people.”
The '98 Toms River East team almost didn’t make it out of the districts. When it played Toms River (no East), it lost the first game, as Descafano picked up the game-winning hit off Frazier. To this day, Descafano’s mom has the newspaper clipping on her refrigerator.
“Every time I go over there, she always messes around with me,” Frazier said. “It is funny. It is a good running joke. He is my best friend. I’ll give him that accolade. That is the only thing he has got on me.”
Led by Frazier, Toms River East went on to beat Toms River twice in the double-elimination format. On they went to Williamsport and the championship. It has been quite a baseball ride for the Frazier family.
So who’s got next? Well, 3-year-old Blake is only nine years away from being eligible for the Little League World Series. Time to hit some more homers.