Before Todd Frazier was a two-time All-Star, and before he electrified Cincinnati with his Home Run Derby title, he was best known as a New Jersey kid who led his hometown team to a Little League World Series championship.
Four months after he announced his retirement, he’s headed back to the place where it all started.
Frazier will make his ESPN Little League baseball broadcasting debut Monday, calling a New England region tournament game in Bristol, Connecticut. Frazier will later serve as a TV analyst for ESPN’s coverage of Little League World Series in Williamsport.
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“Everything is coming full circle a little bit,” Frazier said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, especially for the Little League World Series since I’ve been a part of it. I know it and understand it really well. Kind of kickstart my second career here.”
Frazier, 36, led Toms River East (New Jersey) to a Little League World Series title in 1998 as a star shortstop. At 12 years old, he went 4-for-4 with a leadoff home run in the championship game against a team from Kashima, Japan and he earned the win as a pitcher, the first time an American team won the title since 1993.
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He will be enshrined in the Little League Hall of Excellence this summer. In his five games in the Little League World Series, he went 9-for-15 with four homers, 10 RBI and 11 runs.
“To get recognized in the Little League Hall of Fame, honestly, a dream come true,” Frazier said. “I never really expected anything out of baseball. I always just wanted to play hard.”
The Little League World Series has always been a family affair. Frazier’s older brother, Jeff, played on the 1995 Toms River East team that went to the World Series.
Last summer, Frazier kept tabs on his nephew, Carson, who helped Toms River East to an appearance in the Little League World Series. Frazier represented Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics last year after he played in just 13 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
What’s the biggest difference in the Little League World Series from the time Frazier played in 1998 to now?
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“It’s just like Major League Baseball now, the pitching is totally different,” Frazier said. “Kids throw harder. Their off-speed stuff is a little better. They understand the game a little better. When I played, it was just raw talent, try to hit the ball as hard as I can. Now, you have to understand these guys can hit their spots more, they’re bigger and stronger.”
Frazier says he’s open to more broadcasting opportunities if his Little League World Series experience goes well. He coaches his 8-year-old son, Blake, in travel baseball and tells him he’s next to play in a Little League World Series.
“There is always something we want them to look forward to,” Frazier said. “It helps out for the next generation. These kids on this team, a bunch of kids that saw what we did and what everybody else did, and they have a dream now. Their dream is to get to Williamsport and they are putting their best foot forward.”
Besides preparing for broadcasting duties, Frazier is enjoying his first year in retirement.
“Being a dad, man,” Frazier said. “Just traveling around, helping out with the house stuff, around the yard. We’ve got flag football in a couple of weeks, so it’s non-stop with the kids, man. It’s exciting times. My daughter (Kylie) is doing gymnastics, so we’re busy over here. Trying to see what my wife did all these years when I was away and trying to help her out a little bit.”
Reds surgery: Collarbone operation went well for Tyler Stephenson
Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson had surgery to stabilize the fracture in his right clavicle Thursday, the surgery performed by Reds medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek.
“Surgery was a success,” Stephenson wrote on Twitter with a thumbs up emoji. Stephenson included a photo of him smiling following the surgery and an X-ray of the fracture.
The Reds haven’t announced a timeline for Stephenson’s recovery, but he cannot return before Sept. 21 because he was placed on the 60-day injured list. If he returned on Sept. 21, that would give him exactly two weeks before the last game of the season.
Reds roster moves: Catcher Austin Romine is activated
The Reds activated catcher Austin Romine, a player they acquired Tuesday after he was designated for assignment by the St. Louis Cardinals, and they promoted right-handed pitcher Robert Dugger from the taxi squad to start Friday’s series opener in Milwaukee.
Romine, an 11-year veteran, will give a young Reds pitching staff an experienced catcher for the remainder of the season. Stephenson may miss the rest of the year and Aramis Garcia reaggravated his left middle finger injury and an MRI revealed a fracture, which could sideline him throughout August.
Rookie catcher Mark Kolozsvary and reliever Dauri Moreta were optioned to Triple-A Louisville to make space on the 26-man roster.