There was a time when Todd Frazier was one of the top players in major league baseball.
Flash back to the 2014 and 2015 regular seasons when he was named a National League All-Star with the Cincinnati Reds.
Move ahead to 2021. The former Toms River East American Little League and Toms River High School South standout earned a silver medal as a third baseman on Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics.
The club’s bid for a gold medal ended with a 2-0 loss to Japan on Aug. 7. Frazier, who starred at Rutgers University, was 0-for-4 and struck out once.
“To finish maybe my career, maybe winning the gold medal …” Frazier said prior to the game. “God Almighty that would be the icing on the cake.”
Frazier began this season as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He batted .086 (3-for-35). Among his hits was one double. He drove in four runs and scored three in 13 games before being released May 13.
“Was I upset?” he asked. “Sure. You want to play major league baseball for as long as you can (Frazier competed for 11 seasons). But you move on. I had a Plan B. I can still play the game. I know it’s surprising to many people.”
Displaying That Special South Grit, Frazier termed himself too legit to quit and wound up with the Sussex County Miners of the independent Frontier League. He kept his career alive, stroking six hits, including one home run, in 21 at-bats and driving in six runs with the Frankford Township team.
From there, Frazier earned a berth at third base on Team USA. He led the team to a 4-2 win over Venezuela in the championship game of the Americas Qualifying Tournament. The victory qualified Team USA for the Olympics. Frazier was 4-for-4, including a solo home run and a run-scoring double, and hit two singles.
Frazier stole one base, opened the fourth inning with a single and scored on a two-run homer. His RBI double in the fifth pushed the lead to 3-1. He boomed a homer off the facing of the bar behind the left-field wall in the seventh.
Frazier ignited a double play to help get his team out of trouble and fielded a grounder for the final out of the first inning in front of 2,202 fans in Port St.Lucie, Fl., the New York Mets’ spring training home. The coronavirus reduced the crowd, but they still roared in approval, chanting “U-S-A!” while Frazier starred.
“I had one of my better games I’ve had in a long time,” he said. “And I just keep telling myself, ‘I’m not letting this slip away.’ “
Frazier was 1-for-3 as Team USA downed Korea 7-2 to advance to the gold medal game. He whiffed once, drew one walk and made three putouts.
In earlier Olympics play, Frazier helped Team USA to 3-1 and 8-1 wins over the Dominican Republic and Israel, respectively. He was 0-for-3 with one strikeout and added two assists and one putout against the Dominican Republic. He scored one run and went 0-for-3 with one strikeout against Israel. In a 4-2 win over Korea in the Olympics, Frazier was 0-for-3 with one strikeout. He added two assists.
In a 7-6 loss to Japan in 10 innings, Frazier laced two hits in five at-bats, drove in one run, scored one run and twice went down on strikes. He added one putout and one assist.
“He’s a guy that has kind of cemented the team,” Team USA manager Mike Scioscia, who has played and managed in the major leagues, said after the conquest of Venezuela. “He’s the keystone.”
Frazier is no stranger to international play. He starred on the East American team which won the 1998 Little League World Series. He helped the Collegiate National Team win the gold medal in the 2006 FISU World University championship, batting .224 (17-for-76), slugging three homers, driving in nine runs and scoring 14. In 2010, he helped the United States qualify for the 2011 Pan American Games, batting .313 (10-for-32) in nine games with the Professional National Team.
He took special pride in competing in the Olympics for his beloved USA.
“Playing for your country, it’s the coolest thing in the world,” the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder said after his club’s win over Venezuela. “I did my job at 12 (in the LLWS), dominated at 12 and now I’m 35 and it’s putting America on our backs once again. I pinch myself every day.”
Teams competed with no advanced video and computer metrics. The tools rule major league baseball.
“It just goes to show you, you really don’t need most of that stuff,” Frazier said after the win over Venezuela. “It’s baseball at the end of the day. You play for your country. You play for pride. We didn’t hit on the field. We just hit in the batting cage – until our hands bled, to be honest with you. So we brought it back to our youth days. Hit it. It doesn’t matter who’s throwing. Next guy up in line. And it really goes to show you that, honestly, that guys don’t really need video.
“All we need is a bat and a ball and a glove and the determination to be the best player you can be.”
Still a Toms River resident, Frazier was drafted 34th overall by the Reds out of Rutgers. He was with the Reds from 2011-2015. During the 2014 regular season, he hit 29 homers and drove in 80 runs. He followed with 35 homers and 89 RBI in 2015. He played baseball with even bigger biceps in 2016 with the Chicago White Sox, blasting a career-high 40 homers and driving in a career-best 98 runs during the regular season.
Frazier also played for the New York Yankees, the New York Mets (he had two tenures with the National League club) and the Texas Rangers. He won the Heart and Hustle Award in 2016. He hit .241 lifetime, slugged 218 homers and plated 639 runs in 1,244 regular-season games. He stroked 1,059 regular-season hits and stole 73 bases. He was caught stealing 38 times. He posted a .318 on-base percentage, a .763 on-base plus slugging percentage and slugged .445.
He won the 2015 Major League Home Run Derby and was second in the event in 2014. His pitcher was a brother, former South star Charles Frazier, who played minor-league baseball in the Florida Marlins’ system.
Nicknamed the Toddfather, Frazier’s favorite singer is New Jersey-born Frank Sinatra. Sinatra’s music is played as Frazier enters the batter’s box. Frazier’s estimated career earnings are $45,817,796. He pocketed $22,500 for competing in the Olympics.