Former Rutgers standout Frazier flashes brilliance at All-Star festivities
Almost 17 years ago, a star was born.
A 12-year-old boy won the hearts of his state and the nation with an outstanding performance in the Little League World Series. The camera never seemed far from his smiling, freckled-face and it was his joy in playing the game that drew people to him. In the championship game, he shined, leading off with a home run en route to a 4-for-4 day, while pitching his team to a world title.
Last night, Todd Frazier, 29, burst back to the forefront of the baseball world.
With his big brother, Charlie, pitching, Frazier staged an electrifying Home Run Derby performance, dethroning defending two-time champ Prince Fielder in the first round while tallying 39 total home runs to win the title over Joc Petersen.
And when it was over, Frazier's reaction was simple.
"Bottom line is, I got it done," he told ESPN's Pedro Gomez.
Frazier, the former Rutgers baseball standout, became the crown jewel of the Queen City after bashing countless majestic bombs over the left field fence while Reds fans spurred him on with their cheers.
"He’s almost got a 'Hollywood' type of attitude," said Rutgers head coach Joe Litterio. “I don’t think you can emulate Todd. Todd was his own personality. He was the type of kid who could talk a good game, but he backed it up."
Litterio coached against Frazier (2005-07) in the middle of his 12-year tenure as head coach at Wagner and recalled that no one wanted to pitched to the then-shortstop in his banner season at Rutgers in 2007.
“They had to bat him lead-off because he was getting pitched around most of the time," Litterio said of Frazier, who will be the starting third basemen for the National League in tonight's All-Star game. “I was one of the coaches who would pitch to him. He came up to me after the game — and this was Todd’s personality — he said, ‘Thanks, coach. You’re one of the only guys who pitches to me.’”
Frazier batted .377 that year with 22 home runs, leading Rutgers to the 2007 Big East Championship on his way to becoming a consensus First Team All-American. His third and final season on the banks capped an illustrious career where he sported a .347 batting average with 42 home runs (a school record) and 152 runs batted in.
Since then, he has not forgotten his roots with the Scarlet Knights.
“He’s been good enough to come back and practice with us," Litterio said of Frazier, whom the Cincinnati Reds selected with the 34th overall pick in the first round of the 2007 MLB Draft. "I know the kids love it when he comes around and kind of talks shop with the guys."
Litterio even thinks the stardom that continues to build with each time Frazier steps up to the plate helps Rutgers on the recruiting trail.
“Everybody knows his name now," he said. "We’ve had several guys who we’ve had on campus for visits that have brought his name up."
Glen Gardner was an assistant coach when Frazier played from 2005-07. Now the Director of Baseball Operations for Rutgers, he recalls the type of teammate the Home Run Derby champ was.
“Short of the great play and the home runs and all the other things he did, Todd was a team player," Gardner said. "The one thing I always noticed when he was at Rutgers — and I’m sure it has to have carried over into the big leagues — he treated every day the same. You never knew if he was 0-for-10 or 10-for-10.”
Frazier displayed the same carefree attitude last night, goofing around the set of ESPN's pregame show, peering over the shoulders of the anchors on set with his infant son, Blake, in his arms.
"I felt like a little kid out there sometimes," Frazier told ESPN's Jayson Stark afterward. "In the backyard, swinging at everything. It was pretty cool."
For Litterio and Rutgers, the feeling is mutual.
“He’s got Rutgers right there next to his name and the impact is huge when kids see it," Litterio said. "They can see what can happen to you, staying local, staying in New Jersey, playing for your state and ultimately starting an All-Star game.”
In Gardner's mind, he thinks the best is yet to come for Frazier.
“I’ll be watching (tonight), as I’m sure most of the baseball world in New Jersey will and it’s fun, it’s well deserved," Gardner said. "He keeps improving. Look at the back of his baseball card, every year it gets better."
For updates on the Rutgers baseball team and Todd Frazier's performance in tonight's All-Star game, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.