Third baseman Todd Frazier was named the White Sox nominee for the MLB Players Alumni Association’s Heart and Hustle Award on Wednesday. For Frazier, who won the honor in 2015 with the Cincinnati Reds, it’s more than a ho-hum consolation prize at the end of a season that, barring an 11-6 finish, will end up south of the .500 mark for the South Siders.
“It means a lot, definitely,’’ Frazier said of the award. “I bring a lot of heart. I like to think of myself as someone who does that every day. And I like the ‘hustle,’ too.’’
Frazier was presented with the award before the Sox’ 6-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians, the visitors’ first in three games of this four-game series which wraps up Thursday afternoon. Jim Thome, former Sox slugger and current special assistant to the general manager, made the presentation on the field.
The award honors active players “who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game.’’ The final winner will be announced on Nov. 1.
Frazier went into Wednesday’s game with career highs in homers (36) and RBI (90) and career-low .215 average. He has also provided good defense at a lacking position for the Sox since the Joe Crede era.
All that aside, Frazier’s contributions with all things tangible and intangible have been significant, manager Robin Ventura said.
“His acumen for all different types of things whether it’s playing defense, stealing bases – you wouldn’t expect him to but he is just so aware. He’s into everything. He wants to pick guys off, he’s cheering these guys on, he’s not a guy who spends a lot of time in the clubhouse [during the game].
“He’s always out here and that’s an important thing for a guy that is a leader. And he is — he is a leader.’’
Frazier, who broke into professional baseball as a shortstop, showed his versatility by playing first base for the second straight night. He doubled in the fourth inning, one of four hits against right-hander Mike Tomlin (five innings pitched).
The Sox (70-75) scored in every at-bat during the first game of the series and had their highest scoring inning of the season — seven runs in the sixth — in the second game Tuesday. But there was no such support for Carlos Rodon (7-9, 4.04 ERA), who needed it on a night in which he allowed six runs over five innings. It brought to a halt an excellent run for Rodon, who in his previous seven starts had allowed one, three, one, zero, two, one and one runs.
Frazier, a former All-Star and Home Run Derby winner with the Reds (he was the runner-up at the 2016 All-Star Game in San Diego), is wrapping up his first season on the South Side and is under team contract control for one more year before he becomes a free agent after the 2017 season. He said he wants to return and has expressed interest in a long-term arrangement despite the Sox’ disappointing season.
On the flip side, the Sox see what Frazier brings besides baseball tools.
One of baseball’s traditions Frazier tries to uphold is signing autographs and mixing with fans. As a kid growing up in New Jersey, he knows what it’s like being on the other side of it.
“I try my best to give 10 or 15 minutes over there and make a kid’s day,’’ he said. “You never know who’s over there for the first time. Everybody should do that. We’re professionals — put a smile on a kid’s face and give it your all every day on the field. There is nothing better than that.’’