Major Leaguer Todd Frazier, the star of that team, gets a double treat when his New York Mets play the Philadelphia Phillies that day at the downtown ballpark
By Arnie Leshin
It was an amazing experience. The star, Todd Frazier, became perhaps the most recognizable person from the Jersey shore outside of Bruce Springsteen.
The white toy gorilla that they kept in their dugout became their calling card, leading to their nickname, “The Beast of the East.”
Now, 20 years after the Little League team from Toms River turned back the South Region champion, the Greenville LL from North Carolina, 3-0, it is reunion time.
Frazier was the winning pitcher and the Most Valuable Player of the 55th annual World Series played in South Williamsport, Pa. The right-hander won two starts, batted .431, drove in nine runs, and hit two balls over the fence.
Now he’s still playing, except it’s the Major Leagues where he presently plays third base for the New York Mets. A year earlier, he did the same for the New York Yankees and realized his younger days when he grew up with his two “hometown teams”.
“I thought if I ever make it to the majors,” said Frazier, “I would want to play for both teams. So I lucked out, one year with the Yanks and one year with the Mets. A dream come true.” So was Williamsport.
“It was a fun time,” he said. “I had a blast. It was a time in my life that I’ll never forget. I remember trading pins, sliding down the hill on car-board, and meeting all the other kids from all over the world, which was really cool and probably the highlight, It was just a tremendous two weeks, and we had a great time on and off the field.”
Now its reunion time in this 20th anniversary of their World Series championship, and the team will reunite at Howard J. Lamade Stadium on Sunday, August 19. Not only will they get to relive their glory days, but it will also be something special for the 33-year-old Frazier.
It will be opening day of the LL World Series, andfor the second straight time, there will a Major League game played, matching the Mets againstthe Philadelphia Phillies in a Geico presentation of the regular-season game again played across town, in Williamsport.
“I can’t wait to be back,” Frazier said. “I’m going to bring my two trading books full of pins from way back, and trade with the kids. I’m so excited about this, I’m going to watch every game, and it’s going to be an unbelievable experience.”
Frazier was the only Toms River player to make it in the majors, and is now playing his 14th season.
Said Tom Gorman, the team’s left fielder, now a police officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, “As a team, we had no intentions of getting that far. But we did have great coaching, we meshed well as a team, and we gained more experience as each round went on.”
The team became instant celebrities. They were guests of the Yankees at Yankee Stadium and Chris Carbone, who went 2-for-2 in the championship game, was a guest on the Late Show with host David Letterman. The team was honored at the White House, another lifetime experience, and Carbone is now a mechanical engineer with the US Navy.
Gabriel Gardner was the team’s third baseman, and now a sales manager for a Denver-area convenience store. He said that this team meant a lot to him,
that we were all like buddies, and we shared a life experience that few in this world will ever have a chance to understand.
Frazier said he doesn’t know how he will greet the players he hasn’t seen or heard from in 20 years.
“I know I will hug everyone,” he said, “there will no doubt be tears among us, and they will even get to see me play. Manager Mickey Callahan said no problem, probably will play me all game, and said he can’t wait to hear the cheers from the Toms River people when Todd comes to the plate, especially from his former teammates.”
Wonder how the Big Classic officials decided to have the Mets and Todd Frazier on hand? Never mind, the answer will be felt on that day.