Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Quiet confidence drives Pirates rookie Frazier

July 25, 2016

Jun 24, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Adam Frazier (26) hits an RBI single against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the second inning at PNC Park. (Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen held a team meeting toward the end of a 2013 season in which his Bulldogs reached the finals of the College World Series. The subject, as it often was for the purpose of teaching baseball lessons, was Adam Frazier, his junior shortstop, who led the nation with 107 hits.
“I said, ‘He had 107 hits. Did he get lucky 107 times? Or does this guy have such a good plan that even when he doesn't hit balls good he's got a chance to get a hit?' ” Cohen said. “He just keeps putting himself in that great position to be successful. All the time.”
A little more than a month into his major league career, Frazier again is in a position of success, having posted a .359 batting average in his first 39 at-bats with the Pirates.
Sunday's game served as yet another example. Frazier was in the game for one pinch-hit at-bat lasting a little more than a minute. It was long enough for him to drive a 2-1 fastball from Phillies reliever Edubray Ramos to the fence behind the last row of seats in right field.
Ask those who have coached Frazier, and they mention a quiet confidence about the 24-year-old that has propelled him throughout his career.
Former Oconee County (Ga.) High School baseball coach Stan Fricks remembered Frazier having a small gathering during his senior year to celebrate his commitment to Mississippi State then leaving early in the get-together to take batting practice at the school's indoor hitting facility.
“He's always been confident in his abilities, but he's always backed it up,” Fricks said. “Sometimes you have players who think they're better than they actually are, but to him, he's always had this confidence and he could back it up.”
There were times in Frazier's young career, as recently as 2015, when that confidence was tested. Frazier primarily played shortstop throughout his high school and college careers but began logging innings in the infield and outfield upon his promotion to Double-A Altoona.
The rookie said he prides himself on never getting too high or too low emotionally but admitted the transition was difficult.
“The questions are there. You start questioning yourself,” Frazier said. “Are you as good as you think you might be at the positions? Is someone better than you? All that.”
It didn't take long before uncertainty turned to optimism as the Pirates' sixth round pick in the 2013 draft realized an ability to play multiple positions could be his ticket to the major leagues.
“If I wouldn't have known how to play the outfield at all this year, then I probably wouldn't have even been playing a whole lot in Triple-A,” Frazier said. “All the guys, all the infielders there are on the 40-man, so they've definitely got the priority time at those positions. I think (the transition) helped a ton.”
Serving as Indianapolis' primary left fielder, Frazier led the International League with a .333 batting average in his first 68 games before being called up to the Pirates, who immediately thrust him into late-game pinch-hitting and pinch-running situations.
The sample size remains small at 21 games, but eight of Frazier's 14 hits have come after the sixth inning. All three of his stolen bases — in four attempts — have come in the ninth.
“I just look at Adam, and I have the confidence that he's been around. Not just in our minor league system, but he's played global baseball. He's played outside that arena,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “The other part of it that we share with the guys is, ‘Here's your role that we envision for you coming up. When that doorbell gets rung, you're going to be the guy.' ”
Frazier is soft-spoken and humble by nature, but there are other indicators of a young player with confidence and an ability to laugh at himself. One example might be Frazier's walkup song, Ginuwine's “Pony,” an idea he attributed earlier this month to one of his roommates at Mississippi State.
“I've had one or two (walkup songs) before and then they started getting old, so I decided to change it,” Frazier said. “But everybody seems to like it, so I decided to roll with it.”
Have his new teammates been making fun of the rookie with the unusual R&B walkup song?
“Nah, not really,” he said, laughing. “If it's working, if it's getting hits.”
It has delivered a few.
Frazier was in the major leagues for just two days when he logged two hits in two at-bats against Clayton Kershaw. He was up for about three weeks when he doubled three times in an 18-inning game against the Nationals.
Frazier said he still is working to improve his footwork in the outfield. He also wasn't too pleased with his stolen-base percentage — just over 53 — while in Triple-A.
But a month into a bigger venue, Frazier said he felt not much had changed. To Cohen, that demeanor long has been Frazier's quiet advantage.
“If you just have stopwatches and (radar) guns and batting practice, there are probably hundreds of guys in the minor leagues who would've gotten to the big leagues before Adam,” Cohen said. “To me, the reason he's in the big leagues is because of what's between his ears. Adam Frazier can handle anything.”

Andrew Erickson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aerickson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @AErickson_Trib.

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