If you’ve played, or coached, or simply been around little league baseball, you’ve probably encountered the creature known in American society as the “baseball dad.” An overbearing parent, living vicariously through his child’s accomplishments, strutting around amateur baseball complexes with a bag of balls, a taped-and-ready fungo bat, oversized Oakleys, and a misguided sense of accomplishment.
Most “baseball dads” fizzle out. The kid gets tired of playing year-round, rebels against sports in his early teens, and decides to spend his summers working at Hot Topic instead. Dad goes back to his second and third-favorite hobbies: building model airplanes and preparing scripts for sports radio call-in programs.
But what happens when the kid doesn’t rebel, and instead becomes one of the top high school outfield prospects in Alabama history? How does “baseball dad” celebrate that success and how does he spend his free time thereafter with the golden goose — his son — off and playing in the big city?
Tony Rasmus, the father of Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus, is providing us with a horrific Exhibit A.
In December, the elder Rasmus popped up on a blog called The Cardinal Nation and suggested that new Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire was trying to turn his son into a slap hitter, “like Skip Schumaker.” It was a jab at the organization, and McGwire specifically. Schumaker has a .381 career slugging percentage and is one of the least productive regulars in the sport. There was never a plan to mold Rasmus into Skip.
In March, the elder Rasmus appeared on this very site and made a comment about his son being underpaid. Tony Rasmus also stated that he “wouldn’t mind [Colby] playing for the Braves” and that his “preference,” as a father, would be for his son to wind up with the Yankees. Colby, mind you, hasn’t even hit arbitration.
In June, the elder Rasmus was back at it again, this time with a more straightforward approach. He wrote under a post on The Cardinal Nation: “I believe its fairly obvious that Colby needs to be somewhere else. I don’t think Colby will ever be good enough to play in St. Louis. But I knew this way back.”
Distraction after distraction. Headache after headache. But what can the Cardinals do?
He is Colby’s father, and he can’t be forced out of the equation.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Colby is spending this year’s All-Star break at home in Alabama, working with dad to correct his swing in attempt to break out of the worst prolonged slump of his three-year major league career. Rasmus has hit just .220 with a .297 OBP since May 1. Despite a reputation for having a well-developed eye, he’s drawn just 24 walks and fanned 49 times in that span.
Tony Rasmus has helped his son work through slumps in the past and the two may have success again, but this issue runs deeper. The Cardinals are the most successful franchise in the National League and employ two hitting coaches in McGwire and assistant Mike Aldrete. And yet, Colby is taking directives from home.
Colby has issued two trade requests since arriving in St. Louis in 2009. Were those also directives from home?
The Cardinals aren’t going to ask Tony Rasmus to pipe down on internet message boards or to stay out of his son’s baseball career. And they shouldn’t. But they can request that the 24-year-old begins taking some onus. Colby’s poor plate approach is his own fault. His current slump is his own fault. And it can all be fixed in St. Louis, with video, and hard work, and even the help of a certain Big Mac.
Accepting hints from a relative is fine. As Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains, slugger Albert Pujols has credited his wife, at times, with helping him find mechanical flaws in his swing. But the game’s greatest hitters don’t run to the missus or to daddy in Alabama every time there’s a challenge.
It’s up to Colby to tell his father, for once, “I’ve got this.” It’s time for Rasmus, at the age of 24, to rebel.