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Hurricane Sandy 3 Years later: How a Sports Star helped a Community Recover

Todd Frazier/ESPN

Todd Frazier/ESPN

On October 29th, 2012 the Jersey Shore changed forever. It was a storm. It was so strong. It was so powerful. It was life changing. It was three years ago today, but no one who lives here will ever forget it.

I remember walking through neighborhoods with no power, flooded basements, and trees everywhere. Anyone who would look out the window would see the damage, disaster, and tragedy.

Anyone who has lived down on the Jersey Shore knows the history of the boardwalk, Seaside Heights, the rollercoasters and summer night hangouts. Everyone knows the Tower of Fear, Kohrs ice cream and Mid-Way Steaks, and everyone who knows and has played baseball knows what TRELL is. TRELL is Toms River East Little League, a little league that won the World Series in 1998, and was led by now Cincinnati Reds third-baseman Todd Frazier.

Frazier, a Toms River native who played at TRELL, road the rides in Seaside, and has been to the beaches that three years ago, were washed and eroded away. The disaster was so big and so devastating. 7.5 million people lost power, houses were destroyed, people were homeless, and everything was underwater. The boardwalk was something special to everyone, and Frazier had fond memories of spending time there.

“My first job,” he said. “I was a carnival barker, a guy who worked at a basketball stand. It might have been Lucky Leo’s. You had to make three shots to win a jersey.”

Frazier was a regular on the boardwalk as a kid and loved to spend time there.

“First and foremost, I was a boardwalk guy,” he said. “I loved walking up and down the boardwalks. I spent a lot of time playing a lot of games and working at the arcades on the Casino Pier.”

Frazier, the guy who made was willing to help in any way he could. He set up a public autograph signing that benefited The Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund and Toms River East Little League.

“Stuff like that brought people together,” Frazier said, “And it put smiles on a lot of people’s faces. I was pretty excited about it.”

The damage hit Frazier as hard as it hit land, especially when he and New York Jets Quarterback Mark Sanchez toured the scene in a helicopter.

“The one thing that struck me the most was how high the sand was,” Frazier said. “At least half of the houses were taken over by the sand. I saw the Mantoloking Bridge and there was a house in the middle of the inlet. The Mantoloking Bridge was just floating away. It was absolutely crazy.”

“It was pretty surreal. I saw the roller coaster in the ocean and it was crazy. Half the boardwalks were gone and there were houses all over the place. It’s something I don’t ever want to see again.”

Frazier who is now the face of the Cincinnati Reds has come a long way from TRELL, but it is still very close to him.

“As a pro player – and I was raised in this community – I knew giving back was the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s needed. As a Toms River guy growing up, I saw where everybody knows everybody — especially if you play sports. A lot of my friends were impacted by Sandy.”

“I would like to give back to them. It’s just the right thing to do. People needed food and clothes. The people deserved anything they needed. There are great people in this community. They supported me when I was out there playing in it. I am definitely was dedicated to supporting them.”

Frazier, who comes from a family of successful baseball players stepped into action immediately after the storm was over. The now Home Run Derby Champion was a champion in a different way. Frazier coordinated relief efforts to help two organizations: Toms River East Little League and The Presbyterian Church of Toms River, his home church.

Toms River East Little League’s indoor baseball facility was turned into a FEMA relief center that provided clothes and food to local families.  On December 1st, the Toms River Little League indoor baseball facility was dedicated and renamed “Frazier Field House”  to honor the Frazier family and all they’ve done for the community.

Frazier did one thing that went overlooked by everyone. He remembered where he came from. Lashing line drives, hitting homeruns, and making diving stabs at third base in front of 40,000 people every night could definitely take people away from their community, but for Todd and his Home Run Derby championship, he was and would still be the first person back to the Jersey Shore.

For anyone that has ever walked the boardwalk, stopped at the endless Wawa’s, Pizzerias, the famous Mrs. Walkers, and Drift-Wood subs, they know it is our home. Lucky Leo’s, Breakwater Beach, Casino and Fun Town Piers, that’s what New Jersey as a kid is about.

The damage may have been done three years ago, but we have and will continue to recover because we are Jersey Strong.

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