Adam Frazier Looks Back Fondly on Pittsburgh (But Not the Losing)

Adam Frazier
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Frazier is off to a hot start with the Baltimore Orioles. Signed as a free agent over the offseason, the 31-year-old infielder/outfielder went 5-for-8 with three doubles, a home run, and a stolen base in his first series of the season. A National League All-Star in 2021 when he slashed .305/.368/.411 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres, he is now in his eighth big-league season and his 11th in pro ball; Pittsburgh selected the left-handed hitter in the sixth round of the 2013 draft out of Mississippi State University.

Frazier had no idea what to expect on draft day. The erstwhile Bulldog — his teammates at the SEC school included Kendall Graveman, Hunter Renfroe, and Brandon Woodruff — had talked to scouts from most MLB teams and “didn’t really have a feel” for where he’d be going. It nearly ended up being Houston.

“We were in Virginia to play a Super Regional,” Frazier explained. “It was the day before the game, and the draft was going on during our practice. It was basically ‘have your phone on you and see what happens.’ My agent called. The Astros actually wanted to draft me, but they were offering under slot. I was like, ‘Tell them no, unless they want to do slot.’ I fell from there and ended up going to Pittsburgh.”

Houston, which had the first pick in the sixth round, ended up selecting Jacob Nottingham. The Pirates then took Frazier with the 13th pick. As an Oriole, he now has a tie-in to the could-have-been: Baltimore GM Mike Elias was in Houston’s front office at the time, as was assistant GM Sig Mejdal.

Frazier was focused on winning a championship that summer — Mississippi State ultimately lost to UCLA in the College World Series — but he was aware of the franchise’s rich history. He also had an inkling that the low minors would be far different than what he’d just experienced. That quickly proved to be true.

“With Pittsburgh, there is the ‘We Are Family’ stuff, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, all of those guys, but outside of that, you don’t really know what to expect,” Frazier said. “You kind of have an idea in your head what pro ball might be like, but then I went from playing in Omaha in front of 30,000 people to Jamestown, New York, where there were maybe a couple hundred people. It was kind of like going to play for a college summer-ball team.”

A month after Frazier’s stint in short-season ball came to an end, Pittsburgh played its first postseason baseball in two decades. Facing the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park amid a cacophonous frenzy from 40,000-plus fans in the stands, the Pirates thumped their division rivals, 6–2. Nine hundred or so miles away, Frazier and friends were keyed in on the action.

“We were in Pirates City for instructional league,” recalled Frazier. “They had a big watch party for us, and it was pretty fun to see. Johnny Cueto dropping the ball, the Black Out — you could tell how much it meant to the city. As a player, what you think about watching something like that is the playoff atmosphere, it’s what your dream is. Your goal is to become a part of that atmosphere.”

But by the time Frazier made his MLB debut in June 2016, the team had begun to head south. A 98-win club in 2015, the Pirates were five games under .500 when the rookie singled off of Dodgers southpaw J.P. Howell in his first big-league plate appearance. They finished 78–83–1, and with the exception of going 82–79 two years later, it has been nothing but losing seasons since.

Asked for a player’s perspective of the atmosphere at PNC Park during his Pirates tenure, Frazier was pragmatic.

“At first, it was great,” he said. “PNC was packed, and it was fun to play in front of all those fans. But as time went on, in ’18, ’19, ’21, Opening Day was the only packed house you saw. Or if the Dodgers or Yankees were in town… I mean, it was almost like an away game. But the fans are so passionate about their city, about sports in general, that if they spent some money and tried to win more games, the place would fill back up pretty quickly.”

Frazier echoed those sentiments when asked if it was bittersweet to leave the organization that had been his baseball home for nine years.

“It was,” he said. “Pittsburgh was all I knew, but at the same time, having a chance to win was everything I was looking for. Going to San Diego was fun. Nothing is fun about losing.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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1 year ago

“nothing is fun about losing” adam have you see all the improvements Travis and Bob have been making to the ballpark experience though