Stress, nerves, and butterflies often associated with mid-September playoff chases were nowhere to be found on a beautiful afternoon at Great American Ball Park. It was a few hours before game time and Reds third baseman Todd Frazier was preparing to be interviewed by former Reds star Sean Casey and MLB Network host Lauren Shehadi. I was a fly on the wall witnessing two of the best talkers and best guys associated with Major League Baseball. Think of them as twins separated at birth and by 12 years.
Casey is a former Reds star nicknamed "The Mayor" because he talks to anyone and everyone and he is liked all around the game. Frazier is the modern-day Casey. He even wears Casey's old uniform number, 21. Not only are they friends but both share the same charm and authenticity. The kind of guys you want to eat wings with while watching a game. The former Little League World Series champion admitted, when it comes to food, he's partial to a big steak and potatoes or Jersey Shore pizza.
He's exactly what we want out celebrities to be. Fun and talkative.
Some players do interviews with as much enthusiasm as you'd have on the way to the periodontist. Not Frazier. He's the polar opposite. And he's real. I watched him on a television monitor during a commercial break. Trust me, he didn't wait for the red light to go on to deliver the charm. Lets put it this way: Everyone in the studio was glued to the interview. That's not always the case. Frazier also brought props. On this occasion, it was a Casey bobblehead doll that he talks to about hitting. Yes, that's right. He talks to a ceramic doll. The appearance by "Little Sean," as he calls him, produced laughs from "Big Sean."
On live television, Frazier read a note written by Casey about the keys to hitting. A note that Casey left in his own locker years ago at Great American Ball Park. It reads:
See the ball. Be easy. Sit back. Soft front foot. Be aggressive. Under control. Down to the ball. See it deep.
I asked Casey after the interview how Frazier got his hands on a note that is roughly a decade old. Casey had no clue. But it doesn't really matter. Casey's diligence years ago is paying dividends today.
Frazier and his Reds are close to locking down a playoff spot for the third time in four seasons. They haven't done that since the days of the Big Red Machine. Impressive for sure, but even more so because they haven't really hit their stride yet. They've hovered all season without tearing it up. Frazier says morale and confidence are high right now. So is the "fun factor." It's a theme with this club. A team that had a reputation as having a mild mannered, low key bunch of stars.
Frazier described the scene after a few walk-off wins against the Dodgers. "Everybody's excited, everybody's dancing around, just enjoying life. Its really playoff atmosphere from here on out," he said.
Just as the interview was getting into some semi-serious baseball talk, starting pitcher Mat Latos joined in from about 10 feet away. Throwing seeds at Frazier from the dugout. Sunflower seeds. All in fun. It's contagious.
It's truly amazing Shehadi got a single word in during the interview. When she did, she asked the question I had on my mind. Who would win a talking contest? Casey or Frazier?
Easy answer, said Frazier. Casey. Not only does Casey talk on TV, said Frazier, but "Little Sean" chats it up after Frazier has a rough night and goes takes an 0-5.
No surprise but that exchange was followed by more laughs by all involved.
Between the yucks, steak talk and keys to hitting conversation, it was also revealed that Frazier used to serenade his Little League coach with Celine Dion songs. That's where he drew the line. Open mic night was not happening on live television.
What is happening is a fantastic race for the National League Central crown. The stakes are high. Winning the division most likely means sitting back and watching as the two other division rivals fight to survive a one-game playoff.
In the final few weeks we'll be able to cut the tension with a knife. So if you need to lighten the mood a bit, you know exactly who turn to.
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2-4 p.m. ET. Follow him on twitter @mattyallofmlb.