FORT MYERS, Fla. – Colby Rasmus enjoyed a productive sophomore season as the St. Louis Cardinals’ starting center fielder in 2010. Playing in 144 games for the Redbirds, Rasmus hit .276 with 23 home runs and 66 RBI, and established himself as a fixture in Tony LaRussa’s lineup.
And when the season was over, he made a somewhat unusual move: he stepped away from the game for a couple of months.
“I took a good amount of time off this off-season to have some fun for myself instead of getting done with the season and getting right back in the gym and working on baseball and thinking about baseball all the time,” Rasmus told Perfect Game before the start of the Cardinals’ Grapefruit League game against the Boston Red Sox Sunday at jam-packed and sun-soaked City of Palms Park.
“I kind of got it out of my mind for a little while,” he said. “I’m raising my little girl – I’ve got a 16-month-old little girl. I did a lot of hunting and fishing this off-season back in Alabama just to get away. And I think it’s helped me so far. We’ll see how that pans out the rest of the year.”
The irony of Rasmus’ decision to take some time off and relax in Alabama lies in the fact that he also said if it weren’t for Perfect Game USA, he probably would have never got out of Alabama in the first place.
Rasmus, 24, participated in four Perfect Game events, all in 2004. He was at the PG National Showcase at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.; the PG WWBA 17U National Championship at the East Cobb Complex in Marietta, Ga.; the PG WWBA 18U National Championship, also at East Cobb; and the PG WWBA World Championship at the Boston Red Sox Player Development 5-Plex here in Fort Myers. Rasmus was named the MVP of the 2004 WWBA World Championship. The event normally held in Jupiter (Spring Training site for the Cardinals) was moved to Ft Myers due to Hurricane damage in Jupiter.
“I played with a bunch of great people and I met a lot of good players along the way,” Rasmus said. “I remember playing with Perfect Game in the World Wood Bat (Association) here and over in Atlanta (East Cobb).”
Perfect Game provided a platform from which Rasmus could display his skills, and also worked to get the word out about those skills. After the 2004 national showcase – which was also attended by the likes of Buster Posey, Justin Upton, Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen, Austin Jackson, Chris Volstad, and Ike Davis – a Perfect Game scouting report on Rasmus read:
“Colby Rasmus is a very good athlete … (who) swings the bat well and hit a hard shot off a 93 mph fastball. He projects nicely as an outfielder and as a hitter.”
The PG report also made note of Rasmus’ 90 mph fastball and said he could be drafted as a left-handed pitcher, and because he was such a good student he was being aggressively pursued by all the top NCAA Division I programs.
Rasmus directly credits Perfect Game for getting his name out.
“Where I live, if I would have just stayed where I was at in Alabama playing, I probably wouldn’t have played against the competition that I got to play against,” he said. “And Perfect Game helped me get on some sponsored summer and fall teams like the Ohio Warhawks. This let me play when I didn’t have the money to go other places (away from home). That was a big help because not everybody has big money to go around and travel.”
After graduating from Russell County High School in Phenix City, Ala., in 2005, the Cardinals made Rasmus a 1st round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft with the 25th overall pick.
He played in the minor leagues from 2005 through 2008 for seven different Cardinal affiliates, including Triple-A Memphis in 2008. He made his Major League debut on April 7, 2009.
Rasmus had a solid rookie season in 2009, hitting .251 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI in 147 games. He had sucessfully completed the journey from Perfect Game to the Major Leagues.
“It’s been like riding a roller coaster,” Rasmus said. “It’s a lot of ups and downs and a lot of crazy things have happened. After I got drafted, going straight into pro ball and every thing that followed after that – going through the minor leagues and making the (big club) in 2009. The things that have happened and the things I’ve learned, it’s been a wild ride.”
Now the 2011 season awaits, and Rasmus has high expectations. He is enjoying a fine spring, hitting .311 with two home runs and four RBI in 15 games. He hit in the No. 5 hole Sunday against the Red Sox, in what was, incidently, a rematch between 2004 World Series participants.
“The spring’s going real good,” he said while watching City of Palms Park fill up with both Red Sox and Cardinals fans. “The body’s feeling good; the mind’s feeling good. You can’t ask for much more than that – I’m about ready to dial it in and get ready for the season.
“I think I’m going to have a good year (but) that’s just talk though,” he continued. “You’ve got to go out there and play and see what happens. I feel good though; I feel in a good mind-set.”