Everything about Frazier befits baseball-rich Cincy

Reds slugger discusses LLWS, life as a pro, love for Sinatra and more in Q&A

Everything about Frazier befits baseball-rich Cincy

Even before he reached the Major Leagues, the spotlight was nothing new for Reds third baseman Todd Frazier. That's because he had already played big, and won big, as a 12-year-old shortstop for the 1998 Little League World Series (LLWS) champions from Toms River, N.J.

Now 29, Frazier broke into the Majors with the Reds in 2011 and has since become a lineup fixture. In 2014, he was selected to the National League All-Star team for the first time, and he ended the season with 29 homers and 80 RBIs, both career highs.

Once again, Frazier has welcomed the spotlight as Cincinnati prepares to host the 2015 All-Star Game. In anticipation of the event, he spoke with Major League Baseball about his LLWS experience, life as a professional ballplayer and his expectations for the future.

You're one of a handful of LLWS standouts who have made it to the Majors. What do you think your success teaches current Little Leaguers?
It gives hope to young kids, who can look at the Jason Variteks or Todd Fraziers of the world who made it. I think that simply making it to the LLWS is a Major League experience in itself. Just 10-15 [LLWS graduates] that I can recall have made it to the Majors, and only one or two of them have won the World Series. It goes to show you how hard it is not only to get drafted, but also to make it.

How does your current life in the Majors compare to what you thought your future would hold?
When I was 12, I thought, "[Being in the Majors] has to be the best life to live." I imagined the finest wines and cheeses and all that corny stuff. It's lived up to the hype. The travel is great. At 12, you think the stadiums are meccas, and they are. I want to play until I can't anymore. I'm really lucky to be a part of something like this.

What's the best aspect of being a Major League ballplayer?
Putting on the uniform every day and knowing that it's your job. I like to be the first one on the field to hear the crowd roar and get the excitement going. On Opening Day, I go out there about 40 minutes early, since we always play at home; that's the coolest thing about playing for Cincinnati. I also think it's the greatest thing when a kid asks for an autograph. I remember being little and doing it all the time and how, if I'd miss an autograph, I'd get really upset.

What advice do you have for kids who see you as a role model on and off the field?
On the field, watch how much fun I have. Hustle, bring a lot of energy and be intense, but not overly intense. Anything that you want to achieve in this world requires energy and enthusiasm. And root for your teammates no matter how well or how badly you're doing.

Off the field, hang out with the right crowd. You can go out and have a good time, but there's a limit to that. Always have a true friend with you to look out for you. Enjoy the time, though, because you're only young once.

After winning the LLWS, what was the coolest thing that you and your teammates got to do?
We met Vice President Al Gore. We went to Yankee Stadium and met Derek Jeter. One of the best things was the B.A.T. [Baseball Assistance Team] dinner. There were so many Hall of Famers there, from Cal Ripken Jr. to Reggie Jackson. I brought two dozen baseballs, and by the end of the night they were filled with autographs.

Speaking of Jeter, who is also a Little League grad, years later you met him again, this time as a fellow big leaguer. Can you compare those experiences?
It was surreal. I actually grew up a Red Sox fan, but Paul O'Neill was my favorite player. We met him and Jeter that day and saw them take batting practice. Later I stood next to Derek, not knowing that I'd be at his last All-Star Game. So many things can happen when you play this game.

Now that you have a son, how excited are you to get him out on the field?
I can't wait to have that first catch with him. It sounds cliche, but I can't wait to see him play. He just started to walk. He came with me to Spring Training, and it was a lot of fun to watch him run around the field.

Looking ahead to this summer's All-Star Game, can you recall your favorite experience from last year's game?
Having both of my brothers at the Home Run Derby. The best part was seeing how excited they got in the final rounds. They were trying to hype me up. Afterwards we went to a party and had a really good time.

Great American Ball Park is smaller than Target Field. Do you have any tips to guarantee success in the Home Run Derby this year?
I don't want to let the cat out of the bag. If I'm in there, I'm not going to let anybody know. If I give the guys a tip, it would be to try to hit the ball 400-plus feet to center field [laughs].

What would it take to dethrone back-to-back Derby champ Yoenis Cespedes?
Get on him early. Last year, I made a bad choice by going last. I thought I'd finish it on a high note, but he was on a roll.

What should fans expect from Cincinnati for this year's All-Star Game festivities?
They can expect great fans and a great parade. The city is building more places for going out at night and enjoying nice meals. There are a lot of activities for kids, too.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in the city?
I'm a big fan of Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse and The Precinct. If you're looking for a great steak, those are both good places to go.

What makes the team, and the town, a good fit for you?
The fans are crazy. They are into the game for every single inning. They love you when you're doing well. Just like any fans, though, they get angry when you lose. But we know they've got our backs no matter what.

In which part of your game do you take the most pride?
My defense. I've gotten better each year. I try to be as focused as I can, even if nothing is hit to me all day. I watch a lot of video of good third basemen, like Nolan Arenado and David Wright. It's about honing your craft. We have a great coaching staff that will get on me if I'm not doing things the right way.

What part of your game do you work on the most?
Hitting. It's a back-and-forth grind. I'm not a video guy in this aspect. I changed my stance last year and moved my hands down. I might have to change again this year to be even more successful. I think my swing is ugly, but it gets the job done.

You once homered against the Rockies even though you didn't have your hands on the bat. Was that one of the stranger things you've done?
I've hit home runs with one hand before, but that one was very fortunate. My high school coach always told us to throw the bat head to the ball, and that's basically what I did.

Let us in on some clubhouse dynamics. Who is your most jovial teammate?
Skip Schumaker is hysterical, and Brayan Pena is a very funny guy, as well.

Who is the brains of the operation?
I'd say Joey Votto.

Tell us about your decision to use Frank Sinatra songs as your walk-up music.
My grandparents would always play his music when I was young. I didn't like it at first. I thought it was too slow and I didn't understand what he was talking about. But it's like a fine wine -- it gets better with age. A lot of the older fans like it. Some of the younger guys listen to that music now and thank me. For me, though, it doesn't matter what anybody thinks.

Now that you've experienced one All-Star Game, does that fuel your desire to play in another one?
Every single year. I think it's a great opportunity to showcase your skills. To be one of the best in the world in a certain year is pretty cool. Back in the day, I played a video game featuring both MLB All-Star teams. Dave Winfield and Ken Griffey Jr. were in that game. Hopefully, the opportunity comes my way every year.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.