Todd Frazier is no stranger to moments that seem so perfect that they must be scripted. In 1998, Frazier led Toms River to a Little League World Series title and was rewarded with a trip to Yankee Stadium to stand next to his idol, Derek Jeter, during the National Anthem. Fast forward 16 years later and Frazier (by then, a middle of the lineup force for the Reds) earned a chance to play against Jeter in the MLB All-Star Game — Jeter’s last and Frazier’s first. Cut to 2017 and Frazier was playing for the Yankees after a mid-season trade from the White Sox.
Frazier wasn’t on the Mets last September when Major League Baseball announced that the team would take on the Phillies in the second annual Little League Classic, but is anyone really surprised that it worked out that way, giving Frazier a chance to return to Williamsport as a conquering hero twenty years later?
In celebration of Frazier’s return to Williamsport and this latest seemingly scripted moment, he has teamed up with Canon to run a pop-up clinic in New York’s Central Park on Tuesday July 10. We spoke with Frazier about that, whether his experience working with kids has informed what he wants his post-baseball career to be, what it’s like to gut through a tough season (Frazier hit the DL on Monday), whether baseball owes its minor leaguers a better payday, and which baseball movie gets it right.
From the outside looking in, sometimes it feels like baseball is struggling to get kids interested in the sport. Maybe there aren’t as many household names as there were back in the day when we were growing up. The Derek Jeter’s of the world and everything. Does that feel legitimate to you? Or do you feel like that’s overstated?
Todd Frazier: Yeah, I think they’re doing just fine. I’ll be honest with you, household names like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, just to name a couple guys. Kids can relate to those guys.
I think baseball is doing just fine, there’s a lot of good things going on. There’s the trade deadline coming up, which people love and enjoy seeing new guys coming to their new teams. I think baseball has been pretty exciting.
People talk about different things about the game, what needs to be changed, and this and that, but I think it’s just as fine as it’s always has been, to be honest with you.
With the Little League World Series, obviously, that’s prime time and a lot of spotlight for a kid when they’re in that situation. When does baseball stop feeling like it’s just a fun thing you’re doing? When does it switch to “Hey, this could be a real thing. Could I maybe work my way towards this being like a job or a career?”
I think when you get your first letter from a Major League Team. I got my first letter when I was in seventh grade if you can believe that.
It was the Toronto Blue Jays. I forget what the scout’s name was, he actually handed it to me. He was watching my brother play because they wanted to draft him. They knew about me, and he said “Just in case, fill this out for me and send it in.” It was pretty cool, I felt like a rock star. Probably the first time was probably after my sophomore year in high school when the letters from colleges started coming through.
It was a lot of them. You’re kind of like, “Oh, I’ve got a feeling here, this might be it. Let’s keep having fun playing this awesome game of baseball,” and that’s the way we went.
Does that change the work ethic? Does that change the way you approach the game at that point?
No, not at all. If you played the game the right way your whole life, there’s not really much you need to change.
For me, I’ve always played the game the right way. I’ve hustled and tried to help my teammates out as much as possible. That’s where the focus is, and then like my dad always told me, if you play the team game, all the individual stuff will take care of itself. The team always comes before yourself.