Williamsport evokes fond memories for Frazier

Mets' third baseman reunited with teammates from 1998 LLWS champs

August 19th, 2018

WILLIAMSPORT, Penn. -- As walked to the mound on Sunday at the Little League World Series' Howard J. Lamade Stadium, members of the 1998 Toms River, N.J., championship team surrounded him. While Frazier threw out a ceremonial first pitch there, was a few hundred feet away, at a different stadium, taking in Panama's game against Japan alongside a group of Little Leaguers.
The recipient of Frazier's pitch, "Big Al" Delia -- an overnight sensation due to his "I hit dingers" declaration during ESPN's broadcast of his team's LLWS game -- chatted up other Mets players, doing his best to earn an invitation to Citi Field. All around Williamsport, the Mets spread out, enjoying the day as if they, too, were 12 years old.
:: Little League Classic presented by GEICO ::
"To me," said , who played in the 2004 Little League World Series, "this feels like the purest form of baseball."
Despite being one of the few who knew what to expect from the second annual MLB Little League Classic presented by Geico, which the Mets won, 8-2, over the Phillies on Sunday night, Conforto was floored by the Little Leaguers from the moment he stepped off the Mets' plane at Williamsport Regional Airport. There to greet Conforto and Co. were various groups of Little Leaguers -- including a Puerto Rico contingent from pitching coach Ricky Bones' hometown. Bones and , who wore the nickname "Quarterrican" on the back of his jersey in homage to his heritage, rode a bus to the Little League complex with those children.
Memories made prior to Little League Classic

Others spread out to MLB's Play Ball stadium, and to "The Grove" -- a residence complex that is Little League's version of the Olympic Village.
The star of Toms River's 1998 championship team, Frazier flew on Saturday night ahead of the Mets so that he could more intimately participate in the festivities.
"I wanted to get back here as soon as possible," Frazier said. "It just brought back a lot of good memories. I was up early so we got after it, me and the kids. I wanted to show my kids and family what their father did back in 1998."
Little Leaguers give tips to Mets

For those who participate in the Little League World Series, Frazier knows, nothing can replicate an experience that comes and goes in an instant. That is why Mets manager Mickey Callaway invited the local favorites from Staten Island to accompany them on the field later in the evening, greeting them as they emerged from the clubhouse during batting practice. The Mets plan to host the Staten Island team, which won Sunday to move within one victory of the U.S. championship, at Citi Field later this summer.
They may have company there from Delia, whom also invited to take batting practice at Citi. There, "Big Al" can again mingle with Frazier and Conforto, two of several dozen players who have bridged the gap between Little League and the Majors.
'Joey Bats' meets 'Big Al' in Williamsport

"Those kids are getting incredible experiences that can only help them moving forward in their careers, or whatever it is they want to do," Conforto said. "It doesn't have to be baseball. I think it's definitely a very cool thing for them."
Added Frazier: "People really don't truly understand what it really meant for us to play here in front of 40,000 people every day. I think that kind of helped us out to be the players we are today."
It is something that, even if they never play organized baseball again in their lives, this year's Little Leaguers will remember. Though Frazier doesn't regularly keep in touch with many of his Toms River teammates, the group reunited for its 10th and 15th anniversaries -- and again on Sunday. Before Frazier arrived in Williamsport, he knew a few of his old teammates would be here. He did not expect the bulk of the roster to surprise him, taking the field with children of their own.
"It's crazy how the time has passed," Frazier said. "I felt like we were about to go in that dugout again and play for the championship."