TOMS RIVER – An athletics legend has called it a career.
Todd Frazier, who starred in baseball at the youth, high school, collegiate and major-league levels, announced his retirement from the latter Tuesday, April 5.
Frazier was perhaps best known locally as the star shortstop-pitcher on the Toms River East American Little League team, which won the 1998 Little League World Series. He sparkled with the Toms River High School South Indians and the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights and achieved stardom in the major leagues.
A third baseman, he was a two-time major-league All-Star and a Home Run Derby champion. Drafted 34th overall in the first round by the Cincinnati Reds in 2007, he appeared in 1,244 regular-season games. An 11-year major-leaguer, he hit 218 home runs and batted .241. He posted a .763 OPS (on-base plus slugging) and drove in 640 runs.
Frazier, 36, was with the Reds from 2011-2015. He also played for the Chicago White Sox (2016-2017), New York Yankees (2017), New York Mets (2018-19, 2020), Texas Rangers (2020) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2021). He played third base on Team USA, which came away with a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics last summer. He competed for the United States in the World University Championship, an under-23 international collegiate competition sponsored by the International University Sports Federation, in Havana, Cuba, in 2006.
“It’s been my love my whole life,” Frazier said. “It’s very hard to let go. Don’t get me wrong. It’s one of the toughest decisions I’ve made in my whole life. But where I’m at in my career and where I’m at in my life, I think it was the right decision. I think it’s time to be that family figure that I’ve always wanted to be.”
Frazier plans to spend more time with his family – his wife, Jackie, son Blake (8), daughter Kylie (six) and son Grant (3). He looks forward to coaching Blake in baseball, flag football (Todd Frazier starred at quarterback for the St. Joseph’s Angels in Toms River in the Jersey Shore Pop Warner Football League) and basketball.
The Olympic run was Frazier’s final appearance on a baseball field as a player. During the run, he began thinking more about retirement and talked to his wife about it. He made his decision after two months of soul searching.
“I wanted to go out on a high note,” said Frazier, who thanked his family, friends, teammates and coaches for their support.
With a brother, Charlie, a former South standout and an ex-minor-league player, providing the pitching, Frazier won the 2015 Home Run Derby on his home field at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, He slugged a three-run home run for the host Yankees in Game Three of the 2017 American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros. He drilled a game-tying, three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to help lift the Mets over the Washington Nationals for their 14th win in 15 games during August of 2019.
The White Sox traded Frazier to the Yankees in July of 2017. In the following offseason, he signed a two-year, $17 million contract with the Mets, putting him in select company as someone who played on both sides of the Subway Series.
“It (meant) everything, to be honest,” Frazier said. “When I got traded to the Yankees, I was like, ‘Holy cow, this is unbelievable.’ … The next year, getting picked up in free agency by the Mets. Every time I go to my batting cage, I look at those two jerseys and it’s really cool. I know a bunch of people have done it, but being from Jersey, some of your friends hate you at the time, then they love you because you’re with the Mets. So it made for some good banter. It was awesome. I wish I could have stopped time during those years.”
Frazier earned National League mid-season All-Star honors with the Reds in 2014 and 2015. During the 2014 regular season, he hit 29 homers, drove in 80 runs and scored 88. He hit 22 doubles and one triple. He stole 20 bases, batted .273 and posted a .795 OPS in 157 games. During 2015, he belted 35 homers, knocked in 89 runs, scored 82 runs and hit .255. He stroked 22 doubles and one triple. He stole 13 bases and posted an .806 OPS.
A 6-foot-3, 215-pounder, Frazier established regular-season career highs with the White Sox in homers (40) and runs batted in (98) in 2016.
He played in 13 games with the Pirates, batting .086, driving in four runs and scoring three. In May of 2021, he was outrighted to their Triple-A team. He rejected the assignment and elected free agency. He signed with the Sussex County Miners of the independent Frontier League in June of 2021 and hit one homer and drove in six runs in six games before becoming an Olympian.
Frazier was an All-Star off the field too.
While with the Reds in 2012, he saved the life of a man choking on a piece of steak, using the Heimlich maneuver. He was named the Players Choice Awards National League Outstanding Rookie by the Major League Baseball Players Association. In 2013, he homered for the Reds and their honorary batboy, Teddy Kremer, an adult with Down syndrome. In 2016, he won the Heart and Hustle Award given by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association to a current player who not only excelled on the field, but also “best embodies the values, spirits and traditions of baseball.”
In March of 2022, he initiated the Frazier Charity Fitness Challenge. It began March 10 and ran for 21 days. His baseball number was 21. In July of 2019, he wrote a personal check of $50,000 to the Toms River Field of Dreams, a $2.2 million sports complex for people with special needs. The leaders of the project are Mary Kane and her husband, Christian, whose son, Gavin, has special needs resulting from injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident.
Known as the Toddfather, Frazier is a huge Frank Sinatra fan. During the Yankees’ and Mets’ home games, he stepped into the batter’s box to the tune of “New York, New York,” performed by Ol’ Blue Eyes, who hailed from Hoboken.
Frazier, who also starred in basketball at South, and his teammates celebrated their Little League triumph in September of 1998 when the Yankees hosted the Oakland A’s. Each player was invited to stand next to his Yankees position counterpart during the National Anthem. Frazier stood next to Derek Jeter, now a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Toms River was known as the Beasts of the East because of its skill, power and lucky-charm stuffed gorilla outfit. Rich Cunningham wore the outfit.
“I hope I was the guy that brought energy, emotion, that had a lot of fun, but also, when we’re on the field, it’s game time,” Frazier said. “I hope I brought some joy to the fans I played for because that’s all I wanted to do. I wanted that kid who came to a game for the first time … and looked at me and said, ‘Dad, I want to be like that guy when I grow up because he plays the game the right way. He’s happy. He’s smiling and he’s a guy that loves and cherishes every moment and every minute on the field.’ “
Another Frazier brother, Jeff, enjoyed a brief major-league career after starring for South and Rutgers.
NOTE: The New York Post contributed to this report.