Clint Frazier is not the prototypical Yankee. He has a nose ring. He has curly orange hair and a fiery personality to match, far removed from the cookie cutter mold of beardless, buttoned-up Yankees we have become accustomed to.
In 2016 when he was traded to the Yankees from the Cleveland Indians, the first thing he asked General Manager Brian Cashman on the phone was if he was going to have to cut his hair, and, unfortunately, the answer was yes. Nearly three years later, Frazier is starting for the World Series-hopeful Yankees, making waves on the field for his impressive play, and turning heads off the field for his custom cleats.
Frazier’s passion for sneakers began at an early age, immediately connecting with the Air Jordan I silhouette—the sneaker responsible for the vast majority of the 24-year old’s collection. Wearing the AJ I everyday off the field, it was the obvious choice to turn into a cleat, citing its comfort as his main reason for making the switch.
In early April, Clint sent a pair of the "Shadow" Air Jordan I to Anthony Ambrosini—the CEO of Custom Cleats—and had metal spikes placed into their sole, transforming them into game-ready cleats. Since then, Frazier has caught the eye of sneakerheads and the Bronx Bombers faithful alike, "cleating" some of the most hyped sneakers in the industry.
“I was just going down the list of what I thought was going to make the biggest noise,” Frazier says. “I started with the ‘Shadows’ because those were easy to wear, and then I went to the Jordan XIs and the Olympic VIs, and then I was like you know what, I’m going to wear the Nigels.”
On April 16, Frazier took World Series Champion Chris Sale deep to right center field in a pair of Nigel Sylvester’s BMX-inspired Air Jordan Is, catching the eye of sneaker outlets across the internet.
Since then, he has been photographed in spike-equipped versions of Travis Scott’s reverse-Swooshed Air Jordan Is, the rapper's original Air Force I from Complex Con, and the "Shootaround" version of Jerry Lorenzo's Nike Air Fear of God sneaker.
“I know putting cleats on the bottom of a shoe is different,” Frazier says. “But I can wear whatever shoe I want and that's the sick part.”
At first glance, those sneakers are not exactly compliant with the Yankees classic pinstripe uniforms, but they do fit in with Major League Baseball’s updated rule policy as of 2018. While cleats used to have to align with a team’s designated primary shoe color, they now have the ability to stretch those rules a bit.
“We view footwear as an important part to the marketing of the game,’’ Commissioner Rob Manfred told USA Today. “We also believe it’s a vehicle that allows players to express their individuality. The amendment will provide players with additional flexibility on shoe colors and design, while preserving the clubs’ uniform color schemes.’’
MLB players in recent times have received their own Air Jordan player-edition cleats that have piqued the interest of sneaker connoisseurs who may not have an interest in America's Pastime.
Clint is just looking to be himself and express the dynamic personality that has garnered him the nickname “Wildling” in the Yankees locker room. Signed to Adidas’ baseball roster before the season began, the Georgia-native’s footwear exploits were no more than a pipedream.
“I was with Adidas in Spring Training this year, but I called my agent and said I wanted to go solo,” Frazier says. “I’ve always been an individual, so I thought shoes would be a good way to show my personality.”
While most of the attention Frazier has garnered has been positive, there have been more than a handful of fans in the comment sections of his Instagram posts telling him to worry about his play rather than his shoes. Furthermore, his Yankee teammates have been far from shy about ribbing Clint and his new-found attention.
“CC (Sabathia) calls me Canal Street Clint,” Frazier says. Canal Street is known for many things, being the heart of New York City’s Chinatown district, but it is most infamously known for knockoffs, whether it be Louis Vuitton bags, Rolex watches, or big-name sneakers. “He says I'm getting my shoes off Canal Street, so I told him, ‘You gotta start somewhere, I don't have a Jordan deal like you.’”
Sabathia even took to Instagram to joke that Frazier was going to cleat a pair of Timberland boots.
Whatever nickname you want to give him, number 77 has been getting the attention of the right people. From social media direct messages from Jerry Lorenzo to the potential for exclusive partnerships with the likes of StockX or Flight Club, the highly touted prospect is on the right path to making a lasting name for himself in both the baseball world and the sneaker industry.
This aligns perfectly with Major League Baseball's current youth movement, propelled by campaigns the likes of its “Let The Kids Play” commercials as well as its three-day long Player’s Weekend event. During Player’s Weekend, all 750 major leaguers wear alternate uniforms with nicknames on their backs as well as colorful cleats that do not have to follow the league’s color-coding regulation. As expected, Frazier has some major plans for the late-August festivities.
“When I was in L.A., a mutual friend of mine linked me with The Shoe Surgeon,” Frazier says. “We talked on the phone about some of the stuff we wanted to do and he followed up with a text asking for me to send him jerseys, bats, pants, and a glove I don’t use. I don't know how he's going to do all this but he's a wizard, he's going to break it all down and try to incorporate it into a (Jordan I).”
Starting in right field for the New York Yankees, Frazier has all the opportunity in the world to create something special with his cleats and his story. In the end, the goal is his very own Jordan I collaboration like Travis Scott and like Nigel Sylvester, but he knows that is very far down the road.
“The platform that the Yankees have combined with my ability, god knows what it can create,” Frazier says. “In the end, I want a Jordan I for me. Nigel has his, Jeter has his. I know it comes with the territory of producing, I only have a certain window of opportunity in this game to keep playing and maximize the opportunity, and I want to set up the stuff afterwards.”
Clint Frazier is not the prototypical Yankee, but he’s here to break that mold one custom cleat at a time.
“You can have fun in baseball and you can go about it the right way,” Frazier says. “I'm not trying to start some movement, I'm just trying to be myself and not only let football and basketball have all the fun.”