Behind the scenes with Clint Frazier on MLB draft day
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- On the bus from lunch at the MLB Fan Cave to the Bronx for a tour of Yankee Stadium on Thursday afternoon, first-round draft prospect Clint Frazier periodically checked his phone, scrolling through an array of texts, tweets and Instagram pictures. "I never knew hair color would bring this much hype," the Baseball America coverboy said, referring to his bushy red mane that he reluctantly had trimmed before the draft.
Frazier laughed when reading a tweet from an Astros fan who wrote that he no longer wanted his team to select the prep outfielder because he was photographed wearing an Angels hat that morning. "It was the only hat that I brought with me [whose team] doesn't have a first-round pick," Frazier said, with perfect diplomacy.
His outfit for the evening draft broadcast was coordinated, too -- a black suit with a white shirt and a blue tie "to bring out my hair color." He joked that he should have bought a fake Rolex for the occasion, which he easily could have accomplished while visiting Times Square on Wednesday night. Frazier's only complaint about his attire was that he doesn't like to wear suit jackets. "I feel like they swallow me," he said.
These were the mostly mundane concerns of the 18-year-old Frazier, a senior centerfielder from Loganville (Ga.) High, on this life-changing day when he'd learn the identity of his future employer so long as he signs; if not, he has a scholarship to play for the University of Georgia. Frazier did well to calm the building nerves throughout draft day -- until he sat in the third-base dugout of MLB Network's Studio 42 about six hours later. The time just before the draft began was "very nerve-wracking," he said, but his wait was short as the Indians selected him No. 5 overall.
"We had a good understanding of how much interest the Indians were showing in me, and it worked out the right way," said Frazier, who was recently honored as the Gatorade national high school Player of the Year. " ... I just want to get up there and play with them as soon as I can."
Shortly after the Indians drafted Frazier his phone was abuzz with more than 100 text messages and a barrage of social media that he didn't plan to sift through until much later. He did, however, appreciate seeing a video someone had sent of the scene inside Johnny's Pizza in Loganville, which was hosting a draft party in his honor. Scanning the pixelated crowd on his phone he was pretty sure he spotted his high school coach, to whom he made his first post-draft phone call. (His parents, Mark and Kim, as well as his sister, Taylor, and her husband, Luke, all made the trip north with him.)
The five-tool player has the best bat speed in the draft, according to Baseball Prospectus, and after one look at his forearms, it's not hard to see why. Even though Frazier is only 5-foot-11, his arms are developed. On his left wrist, "Phil 4:13" is tattooed, referring to the Book of Philippians, which reads, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Frazier used to write that verse under the bill of his cap and refer to it mid-game, especially when he used to pitch, before opting to make the reminder more permanent after his 18th birthday.
"When I'd get into trouble, I'd take my hat off, step off the mound and read the verse," he said. "I'm not always going to have a hat on my head in life, so I want the verse on and off the field."
Frazier's focused preparation for the night that would change his life started a year ago during the 2012 draft. While watching at home in Loganville, he saw the Braves select Lucas Sims No. 21 overall from nearby Brookwood High in Snellville.
Frazier had played against Sims a few times but didn't really know him, though he was still filled with local pride when Sims was picked. Later in the evening, Oakland drafted Matt Olson (at No. 47 overall), a first baseman from Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga., with whom Frazier had grown up playing youth ball.
"I saw Olson get drafted and was like, I've got to get to the cages," Frazier said. "I was preparing for tonight a year ago in the cages. I was fired up and excited. I couldn't take it any more. [Getting drafted] was obviously a dream for me."
Frazier's father went upstairs and changed into his gym clothes. The family's basement batting cage was no longer operational, so the pair went over to Loganville High's baseball field, and Mark threw pitch after pitch until 10:30. He hadn't thrown his son batting practice in two years, however, so he was awfully sore the next day. "It was well worth it," Mark said.
Having accepted an invitation to attend the live draft broadcast, Frazier didn't have a batting cage at his immediate disposal to burn off some steam on Thursday, but Major League Baseball organized a full-day itinerary in New York for the nine prospects and families in attendance. It started with a double-decker bus route around the main tourist attractions. Frazier had a prime seat, top deck and on the outside, yet he said few sites made much of an impact other than Ground Zero because he was too busy talking ball and draft strategy with fellow prospect Billy McKinney, a high school outfielder from Texas later taken No. 24 overall by the A's.
"At first I had a team I wanted to go to," Frazier said of the draft process, though he did not identify that team, "and now as I'm coming down to it, it doesn't matter who chooses me. I just want to get the best opportunity for myself so I can go out and play and get called up as soon as I can."
Upon entering Yankee Stadium, all of the prospects and their families stood on the concourse and looked toward the giant centerfield video board where each player saw his photo and name displayed for all to see, a sneak peek of their futures. After Frazier saw his own photo displayed, his father placed his hand on his shoulder, gave a tender squeeze and said, "It's neat, isn't it?"
From there the prospects posed for a photo in the Yankees' dugout and then took a look inside the home clubhouse, one of the largest in baseball. "I want to play in a clubhouse like that," Frazier said. Amidst all the plaques for all the many great Yankees in Monument Park, Frazier chose to pose next to the one for Jackie Robinson, in part because last summer he won the 2012 Jackie Robinson Award, given annually to Perfect Game's national player of the year.
As Frazier walked out of Yankee Stadium, he was asked what the latest buzz on Twitter was, and he said he had stopped looking for a while, his mind clear of that concern at least temporarily. He and his parents began discussing the plan for the afternoon. The next stop was a return to the hotel to get dressed up for a prospects reception with the club representatives, a group that included former players and coaches. Frazier reiterated that he had no issue dressing up, except for that pesky suit coat.
When the draft started at 7 p.m. EDT, the guessing game began. While many clubs' draft preferences were known or could be reasonably guessed, the Astros' desires were the biggest wild card, so their pick at No. 1 would set the table for the rest of the round. When they chose Stanford righthander Mark Appel, the dominoes lined up for Frazier to go to Cleveland.
When Selig announced that the Indians had drafted Frazier, the teenager reacted stoically at first, simply nodding his head, perhaps out of confusion because the commissioner mistakenly called him a third baseman, a position he stopped playing two years ago. Frazier then turned around to hug his mother and father in the second row of Studio 42's dugout. His sister, who was sitting with her husband in the grandstands, couldn't contain her exuberance. As Taylor stood and wiped a tear from her eye, she yelled out, "I love you, Clint."
Frazier walked to greet Commissioner Bud Selig at the podium, and his two wishes for the night came true. First, he took off his suit coat, and then he put on an Indians jersey. It was a perfect fit.