Reds' third baseman never felt forced to play sports while growing up
In some way, shape or form, Charlie Frazier spent 39 years of his life teaching and guiding young people in South New Jersey. A physical education teacher for 23 years, Frazier coached basketball for much of that time and eventually ended his career after 16 years as the assistant principal at Toms River High School South.
Charlie's most important job, though, was helping his wife raise three sons, the youngest of which is Reds third baseman Todd Frazier.
A former athlete himself, Charlie loved the fact all of his kids were interested in sports at a young age, but he never pushed any of them to follow in his footsteps. He never overwhelmed them with his own coaching, and he wasn't out to produce a trio of sons who would one day make money playing a game.
But that's exactly what he got, as each Frazier boy made it to the pros as baseball players. And Todd said he owes a great deal of his success to his dad's ability to be a supportive observer without forcing the issue.
"It was great, because I really [don't] think [of] him as a coach. I don't know how good that would have been for me or him," Todd said. "But he taught my brothers and I the right things to do, how to play the game the right way, and then he said, 'Go ahead and play. Here's a bat, swing. Here's a ball, throw.' He didn't say, 'Put your hands here,' he didn't say, 'Get your foot down.' He didn't say anything like that. He said, 'Here, show me what you got.'
"If things were going wrong, I'd come and talk to him for a couple things, but at the same time, he was always in the background looking in, and I always appreciated that."
For Charlie, there was no reason to force his kids to do something they might not want to do. With his physical education background, all he wanted was for them to have fun, just like he wanted for his students during his time as a teacher.
Fortunately for him, that meant sports. Whether it was basketball, football or baseball, the Fraziers were always playing something, and Charlie was there every step of the way as a loving father rather than a coach.
"Mostly, I spent time with the kids," Charlie said. "After dinner, if they wanted to, we'd go down to the park and shoot some hoops, or we might go to the baseball field, or we'd just go to the backyard. If they didn't want to do it, we didn't do it. I did more of that than anything. We probably hit thousands of balls, we pitched I don't know how many thousands of pitches and how many footballs we threw."
To Todd, that's what made growing up with a father such as Charlie perfect. Whenever he or his older brothers needed their dad, he was there. Whenever they wanted to go outside and work on their swings or perfect their jumpers, he was more than willing to do so. But if they just wanted to be kids, that was fine, too.
When the Fraziers did practice with their dad, there was a purpose. Charlie said his favorite drill was rapidly hitting grounders to the boys, who would then throw to first or turn double plays. But as soon as it stopped being fun, it was over.
The beautiful thing about his dad's simple and easy-going approach to bringing up three of athletic sons, Todd said, is that it worked better than any father could ever hope.
The eldest Frazier brother, also named Charlie, was drafted out of high school by the Marlins in the sixth round in 1999 and spent six years in the club's Minor League system. The middle son, Jeff, was an All-Big East performer at Rutgers before being taken by the Tigers in the third round of the 2004 Draft. He's gone on to play nine years of professional baseball, including nine Major League games with Detroit in 2010.
Todd, meanwhile, has been a star for as long as he's been playing the game. In 1996, when he was 10 years old, he won a Junior Pee-Wee National Championship. Two years later, he was the best player for the Toms River team that won the 1998 Little League World Series. That's where one of Todd's favorite childhood memories of his dad originated.
In order to make it to Williamsport, Pa., where the Little League World Series is held every year, Toms River first had to beat a team from Delaware. As he did for every game, Charlie sat by himself out in center field.
"I lead off with a home run, and you see him screaming, pumping his fist," Todd said of his dad. "Next batter hits a home run, and he's jumping for joy, and everybody is laughing because that's just how he was. If he was in the stands, he'd probably just be [clapping], but when he's by himself and he shows that emotion, which I like to show every day, it's pretty cool."
Along with the emotion and sometimes "fiery attitude" he got from his dad, Todd said he learned a great deal just by watching the way he handled himself as a teacher, coach and administrator, earning the respect of every student and player. As Todd sat at his locker in the Reds' clubhouse a week before Father's Day, he called himself lucky for having a dad who is loved by everyone he's met.
However, Charlie said it's him who's the lucky one. Every now and then, he has to pinch himself to make sure raising three professional baseball players wasn't a dream. Although all of his boys are out of the house and married, he now has grandchildren to keep him busy, including a 3-year-old boy named Carson.
"I'm already throwing overhand to him," Charlie sad. "He's hitting balls and shooting baskets. It's starting all over again."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com.