The Beast of the East
When Jeff Frazier was called into the coaches’ office in the home clubhouse in Toledo last year, the Mud Hens coaches told him he was getting a raise. That was only half of the truth.
“I was like, a couple more bucks a month, no big deal,” Frazier said. “Then, all of a sudden, the hitting coach—who worked with me consistently in the cages—popped open a bottle of champagne and threw it on the back of my head and started spraying it all around the room. They’re like ‘you’re going to the show’. I was like, ‘you’ve gotta be kidding me’. I took the bottle and started slugging it.”
Frazier’s first Major League game came just down the road from McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, in Fenway Park against the Red Sox. Frazier says he fought through some “jitters” in his debut on Friday, July 30th (“Opening Day” as he calls it). In game two, though, Frazier went two-for-four including a double off the green monster against Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka.
“It was an unbelievable feeling. I heard the crack of the bat and I knew I got it. It would have been a home run some other places, but they’ve got that big wall,” Frazier said with a wry smile. “The place went silent. I knew I shut up the crowd a little bit, it was a close game. I was like, “this is the real deal, this is great.”
When Jeff Frazier pulled into second that Saturday night, he wasn’t alone in smiling.
“It was on national TV. Everybody from home was watching, I know everybody at the bars back home had it on,” Frazier said from a seat in the dugout at Alliance Bank Stadium. “I had over 100 and something text messages and voice mails from everybody. Just the fact that people from home are all Yankee fans and I did it against Boston made it even a little more special.”
Frazier grew up in Toms River, New Jersey, a town about an hour south of Rutgers University, where he went to college. Frazier now calls Toms River home again; he and his wife own a house there.
“The fact that I’m the first one from Toms River to make it, it’s a big deal for the town,” Frazier said proudly. It was a good offseason being out and about and everybody talking to you about it.”
Frazier calls Toms River a “baseball town,” a label which he and his two brothers have had quite a hand in creating. In addition to Jeff’s pro accomplishments, he and his teammates finished third in the 1995 Little League World Series.
“My year, we had a couple good players that set the tone,” Frazier said. Ever since then, it’s blown up.”
Jeff’s younger brother Todd is part of the reason that people “move to our town just to play baseball.” On August 29, 1998, 12-year-old Todd and his teammates beat a team from Kashima, Japan to capture the Little League World Series. Todd went 4-for-4 in the final and struck out the final batter for the win. For their efforts, the Toms River kids–nicknamed the Beast of the East–got what might be the best prize a baseball player could ever dream of: A Talkin’ Baseball song by Terry Cashman about them (note that Todd occupies the Willie Mays spot in the chorus).
The oldest Frazier brother, Charlie, was drafted out of Toms River South high school and played for six seasons in the Florida Marlins organization. He’s currently the top assistant baseball coach same school where the Frazier brothers played. Charlie works under Ken Frank, the same coach who the Fraziers all learned from.
“Before I came [to Syracuse], I went to a practice,” Frazier said. “It’s the same thing as has always been going on, good players all around. [Frank] is a really, really disciplined coach. If you don’t hustle something out, you’re out of the game. You’ll back up bases, do the little things. That’s the kind of stuff I do when I’m running down there to back up first base. I learned that from him.”
The Chiefs and the PawSox play game three tonight at 6:15. Catch the game on The Score 1260 or at http://www.thescore1260.com. We invite you to follow the broadcast on Twitter @Chiefsradio.
Talk with you soon.