Frazier looks back on his path to the big leagues
Former Little League World Series star now among National League's top rookies
If Todd Frazier never ate another peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he wouldn't be complaining.
Good ol' PB&J was Frazier's main source of nutrition as a member of the Reds' rookie affiliate, the Billings Mustangs.
"I'd stack them up. I'd have triple-decker peanut butter sandwiches," Frazier recalled.
He knew enough to stock up on the PB&J. His two older brothers, Charlie and Jeff, both have had Minor League experience (Charlie played in the Marlins' organization for six seasons while Jeff is currently with the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate).
"My brothers told me a little about it," said Todd. "They said, 'Eat as much as you can, and eat healthy.' But at the same time, when you only have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches after batting practice, it's pretty tough."
"Once you get to Low A, it's a little different," Frazier explained. "They had these little circle pizzas we could eat, and we'd get the deli meats. Then we get to high [Class] A, we'd get a little more fruit on the side. In Double-A, it gets a little better, a little more steak. And then in Triple-A, it's really close to the big league food, where you mainly get everything you need."
Frazier learned to measure his Minor League experience in terms of food.
"[The food] kept getting better and better, and that just wanted to make you keep going further and further," he said.
Before long, being in the big leagues was so close Frazier could almost taste it.
"[Going to Billings] was a life change for me. And then I got called up to [Class A] Dayton, and the rest is really history ... then high [Class] A, Double-A, and then got to [Triple-A] Louisville. I just kept working my way up and got called up last year, and man, it just brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. When you hit your dream, it's really hard to explain," Frazier said.
The Toms River, N.J., native was called up to the Reds in May 2011, only to be promptly sent back to Triple-A the next day.
"That was difficult for me. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't," he said. "My first callup was in Philly. I had 60 people coming to that game and another 60 were coming the next day. And the phone call I had to make to tell them that I got moved down, it was pretty tough.
"I thought I was doing well in Triple-A and I thought it was my time, but it wasn't. God had a different plan for me. I got called up a month, month and a half later and took off with it. Scotty [Rolen] got hurt and I played third most of the time. And then coming out of Spring Training, I thought I was going to make the team again. And then they sent me down an hour before the deadline, and that was tough, too.
"I [was] called up 12 days into the year and [have] been here ever since. It's been a fun journey -- difficult, but at the same time worth it."
Now, one would tend to think Frazier is here for good. After all, the guy's batting .266 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs, and his name is in the conversation for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. It should be. Frazier has been a fundamental part of the 2012 Reds, filling in at third base for an injured Rolen and at first for Joey Votto.
"I've been [playing different positions] my whole life," said Frazier. "I came up as a shortstop. Then after that, I had to try different positions because they needed me somewhere else. For me, it's all different positions, it's all fun and you never know where I'm going to be in the lineup coming into the clubhouse, so it's fun to see.
Frazier, though, remains modest when it comes to the NL ROY talk.
"I can't really focus on that right now," said Frazier. "For me, [I need] to focus on winning and getting to the playoffs. If we get to the playoffs, the individual stuff will take care of itself. You play team ball. I learned that at a young age, from coaches and family members. When you play team games, the individual stuff will take care of themselves."
Frazier would rather focus on his long-term goal: being the Reds' third baseman of future.
"That's the goal for me -- as well as playing the other positions when needed," he said. "[Manager] Dusty [Baker] knows that I can play all of those positions. I've been playing first a lot now for Joey [Votto]. It seems like I'm just the guy right now that whenever someone's hurt, I'm gonna step in. I just have to keep swinging the bat like I can and keep enjoying life and put a smile on my face, and I'll be fine."
Third baseman of the future? Rookie of the Year? Rewind that tape a bit, all the way back to 2003, during Frazier's sophomore year at Toms River South High School. That was when he first thought he had a chance at going professional.
"I saw a lot more Major League scouts coming my sophomore year," Frazier explained. "I had a great year. A lot of talks, a lot of visits to the house and stuff like that. I just felt it from there that I think I have this chance, that I can do something with it.
"I knew the skills would be there. I didn't know if I could handle this long journey. It's a grind -- the bus rides, the not eating right all the time, going to fast food restaurants right after the game."
But you could trace Frazier's baseball roots back to 1998. He was 12 years old then, and playing on the biggest stage a 12-year-old could: the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
"We're playing in front of 40,000-42,000 here [at Great American Ball Park], and we played in front of 45,000 when I was 12 years old," said Frazier. "It was surreal. Now you think about it, and you think, 'We really did that.' You didn't think about it when you were 12, you just wanted to play with your buddies until the sun sets."
Frazier's team won the Little League World Series that year. Oh, and one more thing Frazier forgot to mention -- he was the star of the final game, going 4-for-4 with a home run.
It's Frazier's fervent hope that he'll make it to the real World Series with the Cincinnati Reds.
"Just looking at our pitching staff, they've been carrying us all year," said Frazier. "From top to bottom, from the relievers to the starters, they've been awesome.
"We have the team. I think we can do it. And if our pitching staff can keep doing what they're doing and our hitters can keep striving to get better and better, we're going to do some damage."
World Series or no, Frazier tries to keep things in perspective.
Every now and then, he'll make himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to remind himself of where he came from.
Just for old times' sake.
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.