On the eve of the Little League World Series getting underway the best-known Little Leaguer from Toms River continued to make his case as a serious candidate for National League Rookie of the Year.  Todd Frazier singled, doubled and hit a monstrous home run off knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to help the Reds beat the Mets in Cincinnati. 

The 474-foot blast to centerfield was one of the longest hit in the 10-year history of Great American Ballpark and the fourth longest in the majors this season.  It was also Frazier’s 15th home run to go along with 49 RBI’s and a .286 batting average.  He has better stats than Washington’s Bryce Harper, who has been considered the front-runner for the rookie award and came into the season with tons of hype.

Of course none of us who have followed Frazier’s career would be surprised by him winning and upstaging Harper.

As the Little League World Series begins today it’s hard to believe it was 14 years ago when Frazier, Scott Fisher and Casey Gaynor led Toms River East American to the championship with a stunning victory over Japan.  That was the highlight of a remarkable run for the All Stars from Windsor Avenue as manager Mike Gaynor took three teams to Williamsport, Pennsylvania in a six-year span.

It was that championship team in 1998 though that captured the hearts of us in the local community as well as the rest of the country.   Who can forget Chris Cardone coming off the bench to hit two home runs in the championship game and then Frazier coming on in relief to strike out the final batter and set off a wild celebration on the field.

The dozen players received a hero’s welcome and thousands later attended a parade and celebration held on the football field at Toms River South.  I covered every game along with the way and it was really a special time.

Since then the Little League World Series has doubled the number of teams who qualify and frankly it’s become more of a big money event with ESPN calling many of the shots.  There are still cheers and tears but in my view this is a case where bigger is not necessarily better.  Nothing will match what we witnessed in 1998 but watching Todd Frazier is a constant reminder of those good times.