The differences between the Colby Rasmus of 2011 and 2012 should be obvious to anyone watching him. His trials as a St. Louis Cardinal have been well documented, and the 25-year-old centre fielder is clearly happier in Toronto with the Blue Jays.
But nobody knows this better than his father, Tony, who said getting traded to Toronto “saved” his son’s career.
Things in St. Louis had become so intolerable for Rasmus that he was thinking about quitting the game, his father said.
“Having not gone through it you wouldn’t understand, but he was just miserable,” Tony Rasmus said before Sunday’s Father’s Day game at the Rogers Centre, where he was one of about a dozen Blue Jay dads flown to Toronto to watch their sons beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-2.
You can motivate most people with money, Rasmus said, but not his son.
“He’s one kid that doesn’t live by money, so you can’t bribe him. We’d always say, ‘Man, you’re making huge money, why would you want to quit?’ He goes, ‘I don’t care about the money, I’m sick of it.’”
That was how the general conversation went every time you’d speak with him. ‘I hate it, I don’t like playing anymore.’”
Tony Rasmus, a high-school science teacher in Phenix City, Ala., doesn’t like to think about what might have happened if his son hadn’t been traded from St. Louis last July.
“He may have been at the house working construction if he had to go through it that much longer,” he said. “You could see it, he was just going downhill, getting worse and worse and worse. It’s been a good thing for him, this move.”
No doubt, as Colby might say himself in his thick Alabama drawl.
Though he struggled when he first came to Toronto midway through last season, Rasmus has been on a tear in his last 25 games, ever since he was benched for two consecutive games last month to “take a breath,” as Jays manager John Farrell put it. He used the time off to make an adjustment in his swing and move up in the batter’s box, closer to the plate, which paid immediate dividends. Since then, Rasmus is hitting .321, with seven home runs, nine doubles and 19 RBIs.
“It looks like it’s fun again,” Tony Rasmus said before his son went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs against the Phillies.
Last season, he said he couldn’t watch his son play, because it was like “watching a funeral procession.”
This year, he’s watched every game because he can see Colby enjoying the game again.
“That’s the kind of difference a year’s made in his life as far as baseball goes.”
In hindsight, Rasmus says, the expectations on his son in St. Louis — where he was a highly touted first-round draft pick — may have just been too much to bear.
“They expected him to be Albert Pujols in St. Louis and not too many people are going to be Albert Pujols.”
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was also reportedly especially hard on Rasmus, who seemed to wilt under the tough-love approach.
“Maybe it’s just a better fit here. He really loves John (Farrell); John’s a more positive-type guy and that’s probably what he responded to better than all the negative stuff he dealt with (in St. Louis).”
But Tony Rasmus himself also became part of the controversy in St. Louis, where he developed a reputation as a meddling father whose private coaching of his son was in conflict with the Cardinals.
Rasmus called such allegations against him “absolutely the biggest fallacy.”
He says he just threw batting practice to Colby — to which his son had something of a superstitious attraction, he says — but he was not a technical hitting instructor.
“Tony (La Russa) didn’t want me involved because he was wanting (Cardinals’ batting coach) Mark (McGwire) to get this kind of credit or whatever. And obviously Colby had a hard time. I always told Colby, ‘Don’t mention my name, let me go ahead and throw to you, man, and go in the newspapers and say, ‘Mark McGwire is my man, he’s the reason I’m hitting.’ But he don’t know how to lie and I think that’s a key to making it in this business: being able to not tell the truth a lot of the time.”
After reading some comments La Russa made about Colby in newspapers, Rasmus called his son’s agent and told him to ask for a trade.
“Man, he’s not going to keep saying all that stuff without somebody responding to it,” Rasmus told the agent. “So y’all need to get him out of there.”
When Rasmus got word that his son would at last be getting out of St. Louis, he says he “danced a jig around the house.”
“I called him first thing and he was like, ‘That’s an answer to a prayer. Thank goodness.’”
By contrast, when Rasmus got to Toronto, Farrell called Tony Rasmus personally and told him if Colby wanted him around, he was welcome.
“I was in chemistry class, my phone went off, I answered the phone, he’s like, ‘This is John Farrell.’ I was like (gasps), good gracious. He said, ‘You know what, we want Colby to hit, we want him to be comfortable, whatever we have to do.’”
But this off-season, even Colby told his dad to back off a little bit.
Like a lot of fathers, Tony admits he can sometimes be too critical of his son.
“If he goes 3-for-4, I’m like, ‘That fourth at-bat there you threw that thing away,’” Tony said, before recalling an off-season conversation with his son. “He said, ‘You know, I’m not going to be perfect, can you, like, cut me some slack?’ And that’s kind of been the difference.”
Now, when he and his son talk between games, he can hear the difference in Colby’s voice. Baseball is fun again.
“Everything since that day has been absolutely awesome here, we’ve been happy ever since.”