Trade to Yankees 'surreal' for Frazier

NJ native who grew up rooting for New York excited about new home

July 19th, 2017

CHICAGO -- Prior to each of his six full big league seasons, sets down goal numbers that he thinks he should reach in just about every traditional statistical category. Home runs, RBIs, runs scored, base hits, batting average -- you name it.

He writes those publicly undisclosed numbers on a piece of paper and sends it to his brothers, Jeff and Charlie, living at home in Toms River, N.J., not far from the famed Jersey Shore of Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band.

"Those numbers I set down in Spring Training are still in grasp, and I'm excited about that," Frazier said before what turned out his last game with the White Sox on Tuesday night, a 1-0 loss to and the rampaging Dodgers. "They're all within reach. Just one hot month away is all."

Frazier is hitting a disappointing .207 with 16 homers and 44 RBIs right now, but he'll get a chance to build on those numbers with the New York Yankees -- his favorite childhood team -- playing at Yankee Stadium just about a 75-minute drive north on the New Jersey Turnpike from where he was once a Little League World Series winner.

Frazier didn't know if before the game, but when he was a late "healthy scratch" from the starting lineup, he knew something was up. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn told him it looked like he was on his way to New York and as the evening unfolded, Frazier was dealt to the Yankees, along with the return of reliever and his fellow bullpen mate Tommy Kahnle for and three prospects.

Frazier went back and forth from the clubhouse to the dugout saying goodbye to his now former teammates, with the personal excitement palpable.

Frazier is a Jersey guy through and through, using tunes sung by Frank Sinatra -- a Hoboken kid -- as his walkup music. He was born in Point Pleasant, grew up in Toms River, went to Toms River High School and played for the Toms River team, which won the 1998 Little League World Series and was honored on the field that summer at the old Yankee Stadium. He attended Rutgers University where he played 63 games for the Scarlet Knights and hit a school-record 42 homers.

Frazier married a Jersey girl, and they have two little Jersey kids -- a 3-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter. At 31, he's had almost the perfect life, drafted with the 34th pick overall by the Reds in the 2007 Draft.

In 2014 when the Reds hosted the All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park, Frazier was the starting third baseman for the National League and reached the finals that year of the Home Run Derby, losing to . His brother, Charlie, pitched to him in the Derby.

Frazier has been traded twice since 2015, and he will be a free agent -- unless things change -- after the World Series. Now this.

"It's pretty cool. It gives us more leeway," said Frazier, who was also rumored to be heading to the Red Sox before the Yankees made the deal. "Maybe I can stay at home a little more or maybe I can stay up in the city. It's nice to have a couple of my buddies coming with me. It's kind of surreal here right now, because it all happened at once, and you hear the rumors. It could have been a different team, here and there. But it's the Yankees, so I'm pretty excited."

The Yankees have a day game against the Twins on Wednesday in Minnesota, and then they travel to Seattle for a weekend series against the Mariners beginning on Friday night. They don't play again at Yankee Stadium until next Tuesday night, against -- coincidentally -- the Reds. No one could have written this script any better.

Frazier hadn't spoken with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman or manager Joe Girardi before leaving Guaranteed Rate Field in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, but he said he was packing his first-base glove to take with him.

Frazier is versatile. He can play both corners of the infield and left field. But his obvious landing place in New York is first base, where the Yanks have used eight players this season.

That would be fine with Frazier. One of his earliest favorite players was Don Mattingly, the All-Star first baseman, who once anchored that spot for the Bombers when Frazier was a little kid and is now manager of the Marlins.

This is Frazier's charmed life. When he was honored with his fellow Little Leaguers in 1998 -- the year the Yankees won 125 games and swept the Padres in the World Series -- he was introduced to Derek Jeter, who became a friend when the two were in the Major Leagues.

"I rooted for the Yankees. I just love baseball," Frazier said. "My first [game] was [at] old Yankee Stadium. Don Mattingly hit a homer -- I brought it up to him a couple of years ago. He's like, 'I remember that day, I remember the pitcher.' And I looked it up and he remembered it like it was yesterday. And I remember the upper deck was shaking. And to call New York my home now is surreal."

Surreal or not, with 164 career homers and a high of 40 just last season, in New York he'll be able to create some of his own memories. Jersey kid, Bronx boy now, going home.