CLEVELAND: By the time Clint Frazier was a senior at Georgia’s Loganville High School, hitting home runs had become relatively routine.
He hit 17 homers in 32 games his senior season.
So when Frazier, the Indians’ No. 1 pick (fifth overall) in last year’s draft, turned on a pitch and belted a home run in his first professional at-bat in the Arizona Summer League, he figured perhaps life as a professional ball player might not be so tough after all.
It didn’t take Frazier, the National High School Player of the Year, long to realize the flaws in that line of thinking. Frazier hit just four more home runs in the final 43 games of the season.
“[After the first home run], I thought ‘I’m about to hit 30 home runs in league,’ ” Frazier said last week while in Cleveland for the Indians’ Tribe Fest activities at Progressive Field. “But it didn’t work out. I only hit five.”
The realization that pro ball, even at its lowest level, would be no home run derby, sunk in pretty quickly.
“Probably the next game I started realizing that I’m not going to dominate these guys like I thought,” he said. “I just got off to a good start. I didn’t really think it was going to carry over into 30 home runs, but I definitely wish that it would have.”
The Indians were far from concerned about Frazier’s power stroke.
A 6-foot-1, 190-pound outfielder, Frazier, 18, still produced a .297 batting average. His 21 extra-base hits ranked fifth in the rookie league and he was tabbed the Arizona Summer League’s top prospect by Baseball America.
“The way he embraced his teammates, the way he embraced us, the way he embraced professional baseball and him talking about the things he wants to do and the impact he wants to make, the impression he’s made on everyone in this organization has been nothing but positive,” Tribe farm director Ross Atkins said on Tuesday.
He is a pro now, but Frazier still has plenty of goofy teenager in him.
Asked if he noticed a difference in the pitching from high school to his first taste of pro baseball, the red-haired, freckle-faced Frazier couldn’t help but giggle.
“Yes!” he said without hesitation, eliciting laughter from the small crowd of reporters around his locker in the Indians clubhouse. “They threw a lot harder, threw a lot more off-speed [pitches] for strikes and just had a lot better command than what I saw in high school every day.”
After adjusting his expectations going up against professional pitching during the summer, Frazier focused on adding some bulk to his lanky frame through strength and conditioning exercises in the offseason.
“I weighed in at 184 [pounds] when I was drafted, and now I’m 210,” Frazier said. “So I put on a lot of weight. I didn’t work out for two years [following elbow surgery as a senior], so once I started lifting again, the weight came back on to me.”
Listening to Frazier talk, there’s no doubt he’s enjoying every moment of his new life as a pro.
“A year ago this time, I was totally stressed over [whether] I was going to pass math class,” he said, giving perspective on just how much life’s changed in a year’s time. “It’s definitely a better feeling that I don’t have to sit down in a classroom every day and worry, ‘Am I going to be able to play this season because of my [math] grade?’ ”
Still, living the baseball dream comes with its own kind of pressure. The hardest adjustment so far has been measuring up to a similar talent pool.
“When I step out on the field, just knowing I might not be the best every time I’m out there [is tough],” he said. “When I do step out on that field, I have to have a purpose behind everything I do. I can’t just go out there and try to get away with mediocre playing.
“In high school, I could go out there and look like I’m having a bad day and still be better than the other players just because of my natural ability and some of the God-given talent I had. Now, going out on a minor-league field and not doing good just looks awful.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.