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Frazier has fond memories of LLWS

Reds third baseman was the shortstop of 1998 team from N.J.

Sometimes, it seems like Todd Frazier ought to have a Superman logo under his Cincinnati Reds uniform shirt. He's been that good, ever since he was a 12-year-old playing Little League baseball in Toms River, N.J.

In the first half of his first full Major League season, Frazier had a walk-off home run against the Braves, triggering the traditional home-plate celebration and the pie-in-the-face treatment from his teammates.

"It was pretty cool," he said.

Then there was the home run against soft-tossing Jamie Moyer when the bat flew out of his hands and the ball reached the seats anyway.

"I felt the bat slipping out of my hands," Frazier said. "It was a pretty interesting way to hit a home run."

And then there was the night when he went out for lunch in Pittsburgh with teammate Ryan Ludwick and wound up saving another diner's life with the Heimlich maneuver.

"I learned that in high school," Frazier said. "You put a couple of fingers below the sternum. Two pumps, and it came right out."

He makes it sound like there was nothing to it. That may be because he's been doing special things for a long time. He was a three-sport star as a youngster, won an NFL Punt, Pass and Kick title and scored 1,000 points for his high school basketball team before going on to star at Rutgers University. But the thing he remembers best, especially at this time of year, was winning the Little League World Series.

"My brother went to the World Series in 1995," Frazier said. "I had to wait three years for my chance. I think of how lucky we were to get there."

There were a number of twists and turns along the way, including the state championship game.

"We had two out in the sixth inning, and we were down one run," Frazier said. "Casey Gaynor was on third base. He was the slowest kid on the team. There's a passed ball, and the ball hits a pipe on the backstop and rolls up the first-base line. Casey scores, and we go on to win the championship."

When the team got to Williamsport, Pa., site of the Little League World Series, they were suitably impressed.

"We're a bunch of kids and we're playing in front of 30,000 people," Frazier said. "It was awesome."

The Toms River kids got through the round-robin elimination, defeating Greenville, N.C. for the right to represent the United States in the championship game against Japan. Leading off for Toms River in the title game was the shortstop, Todd Frazier.

"I hit a home run," he said.

It was one of 11 homers in the game. Frazier went 4-for-4 with a walk, and Toms River won, 12-9. He hit four home runs in the Series, finished with a .600 batting average and struck out Japan's last batter to end the game.

"We weren't nervous," Frazier said. "We were a bunch of kids having fun, laughing all the time. But once our crowd started chanting, 'USA, USA,' we knew we were doing something pretty big."

The Toms River team was welcomed home with the biggest celebration anyone could remember.

"There were parades," Frazier said. "We all rode on a fire truck. It was pretty cool."

The Toms River kids all moved on, but Frazier will never forget that team and that time, friends like Scott Fisher, Eric Campesi and Chris Cardone. And, of course, Casey Gaynor, chugging home with that run in the state championship game.

"They are a part of me whenever I take the field," he said.

There is a reunion every few years where they catch up with one another.

"It's fun to see them, some of them with kids of their own," Frazier said.

And one of them playing with the Cincinnati Reds.

Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.