Frazier, Trout bring Jersey flavor to All-Star Game
Baseball's Midsummer Classic may be held in Cincinnati, but two homegrown stars are keeping the Garden State at the center of the baseball universe.
Toms River's Todd Frazier and Millville's Mike Trout each earned starting nods in tonight's game.
Frazier would need quite an encore to top his Monday night performance, though.
The Reds third basemen electrified his home crowd, winning the Home Run Derby in dramatic fashion over Dodgers outfield Joc Pederson, 15-14.
"Just hearing the crowd roar, call my name, adrenaline," Frazier said. "Those last minutes of each round really picked me up. It was a lot of fun."
The former Rutgers University star excelled in the derby's new timed format, hitting walk-off homers in each of the three rounds. Frazier punctuated the event by blasting the winner on the first pitch from his brother, Charlie, in bonus time of the final round.
He was mobbed by teammates and brothers, Charlie and Jeff, as a wild celebration set off at Great American Ballpark.
The clutch hitting sparked memories of Frazier's first heroics in front of a national audience. As a 12-year-old, he led the Toms River East All-Stars to the 1998 Little League World Series championship, homering in the first inning of the title game against Japan.
That trend continued through stellar careers at both Toms River High School South and Rutgers University before he was drafted by the Reds in 2007 (34th overall).
The pride of Toms River makes his first All-Star Game start tonight (second appearance) after slugging 25 home runs in the first half of the season. The Reds third basemen will bat second for the National League in front of the hometown crowd.
While Todd Frazier has experienced stardom on the diamond for much of his life, his Monday night performance ranks as a signature moment in his career, and will go down as one of the most memorable derby's ever.
Fellow Jersey boy Mike Trout did not participate in last night's festivities, but the Angels outfielder strides into Cincinnati regarded, by most, as the best player in the sport, with an almost unthinkable start to his career.
The 23-year-old from Millville is already a four-time All-Star and the defending American League MVP, to go along with two runner-up finishes. Trout captured last year's All-Star Game MVP honors and was Rookie of the Year in 2012.
That just scratches the surface in terms of awards, accolades and praise. The Angels made sure to lock up the once-in-a-generation talent long-term, signing him to a six-year, $144.5 million contract last year.
His journey to the top of the baseball mountain started in the South Jersey town of Millville. Trout was a stand-out basketball and baseball player for the Millville High School Thunderbolts. He hit a record 18 home runs during his senior year.
Trout decided to forgo a scholarship to East Carolina University after being drafted by Los Angeles 25th overall in the 2009 draft. He had a brief stint in 2011 before becoming a full-time starter in 2012. Everything since has been record-breaking and historical.
Despite fame and wealth beyond their wildest expectations, Trout and Frazier remain true to their Garden State roots.
Frazier, along his wife, Jacqueline, and the couple's one-year-old son spend the off-seasons at a home they built in Toms River.
Trout returns to South Jersey during his time off and is dating his high school sweetheart, Jessica Cox.
While the two stars are on opposite sides for tonight's showcase game, they will catch the same flight back to New Jersey post-game. They will each enjoy a few days off back home in the Garden State before resuming the grind of the baseball season this weekend.
Will Trout be able to defend his All-Star MVP honors? Will Todd continue his magical week and win it in front of his home crowd?
These days, the smart money seems to be on the two Jersey boys.