Father’s Day special: Q+A with Tony Rasmus

Tony Rasmus was among the 13 fathers of Blue Jays players to make the trip to Toronto on Sunday afternoon. He spoke with the media prior to Toronto’s 6-2 victory over Philadelphia and this is what he had to say about Colby’s resurgence at the plate, his overall state of mind and last year’s controversy in St. Louis:

Knowing where Colby was last year … must be pretty gratifying seeing him happy here

“You know what I’ll tell you this, I told somebody else today: I hadn’t watched a baseball game in two years that he’s played in St. Louis, because when I watched him I feel like I was watching a funeral procession. It just wasn’t fun anymore. And it was painful to watch and I didn’t think he was playing to his capabilities much of the time.

“I’ve watched every game this year, just to show you that’s the kind of difference a year’s made in his life as far as baseball goes – to watch him smile, I watched him out there do a couple of out [makes hand gesture] things. I’m like, ‘Wow, look at that: It looks like it’s fun again.’ And you see the last month or so he’s kind of picked it up and played a lot better. So it’s been super for us.

“As a family, unfortunately, our lives revolved around Colby’s baseball career. I have two other kids who play minor-league baseball, but all the other brothers and everybody always pulls for him. And to watch him have fun this year, all my kids call me every day, like ‘Hey Dad, Colby looks like he’s having a good time. He’s playing better, this, that and the other.’ So it’s been fun this year.”

What has been the difference this year?

“Looking back on it, maybe the fact that he was such a big prospect and they expected him to be Albert Pujols in St. Louis and not too many people are going to be Albert Pujols. Maybe the expectations they had for him were just hard for him to live up to. Maybe that pressure just wore him down. Obviously Tony wore on him a little bit, but Tony’s a Hall of Fame manager, you know. Maybe everybody can’t play for him. Maybe it’s just a better fit here. He really loves John; John’s a more positive-type guy and that’s probably what he responded to better than all the negative stuff he dealt with there.”

During the offseason you and him talked about your involvement…

“That’s really uncomfortable to hear a lot of that stuff, to be honest with you, because my involvements really basically a batting practice pitcher. It’s not like I get in there and go, ‘Hey, move your hands up here, do this.’ I’m not really a technical— But the fact is, I’m 46, but I can still throw about 90. So I can back up 60 feet and throw BP versus having to soft toss to him. And I can throw breaking balls and changeups and that kind of stuff.

“Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve coached him since he was in coach-pitch and if he goes 3-for-4, I’m like, ‘That fourth at-bat there you threw that thing away.’ That guy laid one across, there. He said, ‘You know, I’m not going to be perfect, can you cut me some slack?’ And that’s kind of been the difference. As far as me calling him on Friday and saying, ‘Hey, you know what your weight’s not over the plate,’ the technical stuff like that – that’s never been me. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve read the newspapers and that’s what they all made it out to be. But I was never that type of batting instructor for him; I’m just a good BP arm.”

Where did all of that talk about interference come from?

 “I’m not going to say it to make it back to St. Louis in the newspapers. I was just a BP guy and the thing is, I throw pretty good BP, if I want to throw outside edge BP, I can throw it, if I want to bust you in, so we would go through scenarios, no balls, no strikes, this guy’s throwing today, he throws a lot of first-pitch fastballs, that’s how we do.

“One June two years ago, I spent the whole month doing that, he hit nine home runs that month. I always told somebody, if your kid believes he has to chop off a chicken’s head to hit, if he believes that’s what makes him hit, then by God, chop one off every day. He for some reason believed me throwing batting practice to him was helpful for him. If he believed it was helpful for him, it was helpful.”

During season in StL?

 “Two years ago, last year I didn’t do it any, because Tony didn’t want me involved because he was wanting 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 doesn’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. I was just a BP arm and he felt comfortable with me throwing to him and he felt like it helped him, and if he felt like it helped him, it helped him.”

Relief for both of you this year?

“Oh, John called me early on, it was really funny, I was like star struck. I was in chemistry class, I teach chemistry and physics, 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.’ And I went through the same story I just told you, ‘I don’t care what you’ve heard, it’s not like I’m going to be working on Xs and Os as far as hitting goes with him, I just throw to him, he likes me throwing batting practice, been throwing it to him forever.’ John made it known that whatever we needed to do to have him hit or playing good that he was all for it.

Differences in his voice?

“He’s just happy man. Having not gone through it you wouldn’t understand, he was just miserable. This is the thing, you can motivate most people in this life by money, I’ll give you $20 to cut the grass, whatever, anybody has a number. 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.’

“And we were trying to keep him to stay in a little longer, maybe something will happen, a trade comes up, and then finally it did and that saved him. He may have been at the house working construction if he had to go through that much longer. 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.”

What was your reaction to the trade?

“Well, some stuff came out in the newspaper that wasn’t accurate from Tony and we called his agent and said, ‘Man, he’s not going to keep saying all that stuff without somebody responding to it, so y’all need to get him out of there.’ That was about the way it went. So whenever they called and told me, I was dancing the jig around the house. I called him first thing and he was like, ‘That’s an answer to a prayer. Thank goodness.’ Everything since that day has been absolutely awesome here, we’ve been happy ever since the trade.”

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