Casey Rasmus is following his older brother Colby through the Cardinals organization. (Mark Harrell/Springfield Cardinals)
By Rob Rains
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Casey Rasmus was 17 years old in the summer of 2007 when he came to visit his big brother, one of the top prospects in the minor leagues, who had reached the Double A Springfield Cardinals four months before his 21st birthday.
“Me, Colby and our grandma were riding in the car, going somewhere, and I remember telling Colby, ‘I want to play here someday,’ Rasmus said. ‘I want to play in this type of atmosphere and in front of those kinds of fans.’
“I remember him telling me, ‘If you want to do it, you had better step up and get your work done because it’s not easy.’ It’s pretty funny that I am here now, because I did talk to him about it when he was playing here.”
Six years after the brothers had that conversation, and two years after he was drafted into the organization, Rasmus was promoted from Class A Palm Beach to Springfield on July 9. Even though Rasmus is now in the same locker room where his high-profile brother once stood, he has traveled a much different path to reach this point in his career.
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They share the same last name, but virtually nobody associated with the Cardinals links Casey Rasmus with his brother, four years his senior. Colby Rasmus became a lightening-rod for criticism during his St. Louis tenure before he was traded to Toronto only a month after the 2011 draft brought his brother into the organization.
“I’ve not had one conversation with him about Colby and I don’t observe that a lot of people bring it up,” said Springfield manager Mike Shildt. “This is the first time I’ve had him as a manager, and he’s been great. My observation is that he’s Casey Rasmus. He’s his own guy.”
Casey Rasmus is a catcher, and at 5-foot-10 is four inches shorter than Colby, and is a switch-hitter. He came into professional baseball after playing three years at Liberty University in Virginia and his selection likely would have gone virtually unnoticed after the Cardinals took him in the 36th round, the 1,100th player picked in the draft, except for his major-league brother.
The expectations that come from a player selected in that point in the draft are much less glamorous than those of a player, like the oldest Rasmus brother, picked 1,072 spots earlier, in the first round of the 2005 draft out of an Alabama high school.
“I think my three years in college helped me mature and realize what I need to do to be ready to play every day,” said Rasmus, now 23. “Him coming into the pros as an 18-year-old kid out of high school, he had a lot of pressure on him. He was a first-round pick and got a decent amount of money. I was pretty much under the radar. Nobody was really worrying about me, and they let me just go out and do my thing.”
Rasmus does not shy away from talking about his brother. They are close, as he is with his two other brothers, Cory, a pitcher traded on Monday from the Atlanta organization to the Los Angeles Angels, and Kyle, who didn’t go into professional baseball but plans to go into coaching after earning his degree from Columbus State in Georgia.
The brothers work out together near their home in Phenix City, Ala., each winter, still under the watchful eye of their father, Tony, who coached all of them in high school and who became well known in St. Louis for his opinions about how Colby was being treated by then-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.
“It’s a positive to be his brother,” Rasmus said. “It’s awesome what he is doing. I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s a great brother. All three of my brothers are awesome. We all will help out each other whenever we can. Being Colby’s little brother is good. Hopefully one day he will be known as Casey’s other brother.
“I think the organization realizes that I’m not him. I’m a different type of player, and they’ve let me just go about my business and do what I need to do.”
Rasmus is starting to make his own mark in baseball by developing a reputation for his work ethic and toughness, not surprising considering the coaching and training he received growing up.
“That speaks to how we grew up,” Rasmus said. “Our dad instilled that work ethic in us early, to go out there and take care of business. There was pressure on all of us, but our dad did what he thought he needed to do to get us where we needed to be. He did a great job. I have no complaints about anything about growing up.”
Rasmus has played in just four games since his promotion to Springfield, but has six hits in 15 at-bats with three RBI in that limited opportunity. He is splitting time with Cody Stanley behind the plate, and Shildt says that should continue the rest of the season. It is part of Rasmus’ education in learning to be a backup catcher, which could be his ticket to continuing to advance through the organization.
“He’s a tough kid,” Shildt said. “He’s definitely playing the right position for his makeup. We’ve had two instances where the ball has hit at or in front of the plate and taken a big hop. At that point you’ve got a little fight or flight syndrome going on, and both times he literally held his technique and took both balls right off the mask.
“We all appreciate the toughness and commitment. He’s done a nice job back there. He’s not playing every day, which is tough, but it’s part of his development as a backup catcher. He give us good at-bats, and it looks like his left side will be his stronger side. He’s got good hand-eye coordination and he puts the ball in play. He can run, and he uses the bunt game to his advantage. There’s a lot of different ways he can help you.”
The biggest aspect to his game, Rasmus believes, is how he works with his pitchers to try to make them successful. That is a philosophy he has developed ever since he first became a catcher as a freshman in high school.
“What I pride myself on a lot is getting in touch with my pitchers and having them trust me 100 percent,” he said. “I want them to know I’m going to bust my butt back there and make them as comfortable as possible. I want to get a feel for them on and off the field. When the bases are loaded and it’s a 3-2 count in the ninth inning, I want them to have the confidence to throw a curve ball and know I will get in front of it somehow. The main part of my game is defense, and I will do everything I can to help my pitchers.”
While he has quickly earned a reputation for hard work, Rasmus still believes that was one of the biggest misconceptions about his brother during his time in St. Louis.
“He’s always just been a phenomenal athlete and made it look easy,” Rasmus said. “What people don’t understand, who maybe don’t know him as well, is that he wants to win more than anybody. I can guarantee that. People got upset because he didn’t slam his helmet or his bat and all that kind of stuff if he struck out. His attitude was just ‘I’ll get them next time.’ He was the same way if he hit a home run.
“He never got too high or too low, he was just real fluid. He can be running full speed and it looks like he’s jogging. People took that like he wasn’t trying, but those are the people who don’t know him.”
Despite his love for his brother, and his resolve to defend his character, Rasmus is glad that he has not been linked to him by those who will decide his career future.
“I just want to make my own mark with the Cardinals,” he said. “I’m happy being here and I would not want to be with any other team. He (Colby) had the spotlight on him from high school on, and had a lot of people looking at him.
“I’ve never really had the spotlight on me, but hopefully that will happen one day.”