Nearly five years since being a trade chip that helped the St. Louis Cardinals win a World Series, Colby Rasmus finally played his first game against his former team.
Rasmus, 29, batted sixth and manned left field Tuesday as the Houston Astros defeated the Cardinals 5-2 at Busch Stadium, where Rasmus broke in as a promising rookie in 2009.
There’s excitement in the air. I feel it, and it feels good. It’s good to be back in the big red house.
Houston outfielder Colby Rasmus on his return to St. Louis
“There’s excitement in the air. I feel it, and it feels good,” said Rasmus, the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 2005 (28th overall). “It’s good to be back in the big red house. I’m excited to see what the fans have got for me tonight. I think it will be a good time. I’ll try to have fun with it ... and let it all hang out. It’s still a baseball game.”
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Rasmus was greeted with gentle applause, and no boos, when he batted in the second inning against his former minor-league roommate, Jaime Garcia. Rasmus struck out. Rasmus struck out again in the ninth, this time against Tyler Lyons.
Rasmus more than made up for the strikeout in his fifth-inning at-bat against Garcia, clubbing a 406-foot homer to right-center. Rasmus singled against Garcia in the seventh, ending Garcia’s evening.
Rasmus’ career with the Cardinals never took off, as he clashed often with then-manager Tony La Russa over a number of issues, including Rasmus taking hitting instruction from his dad, Tony. Rasmus’ relationship with some teammates also was strained.
The Cardinals finally traded Rasmus on July 27, 2011, sending him to the Toronto Blue Jays with pitchers Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters for pitchers Octavio Dotel, Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski and outfielder Corey Patterson. Dotel, Jackson and Rzepczynski played key roles down the stretch.
Rasmus said he was OK with the trade, although he didn’t watch the World Series that year when the Cardinals took down the Texas Rangers in seven games.
I was fine with (the trade). Things happen for a reason. It just wasn’t meant to be. When the powers that be want something done, they get it done.
Colby Rasmus on being dealt by the Cardinals to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011
“I just went home (after the season) and was out in the country doing whatever,” Rasmus said. “But I was fine with (the trade). Things happen for a reason. It just wasn’t meant to be. When the powers that be want something done, they get it done. ... They saw that they needed to do something different, and I hold no grudge toward that.
“I see it much differently now, being an older young man. It’s not that big a deal. It’s not the end of the world.”
Rasmus played three-plus seasons in Toronto and batted .234 with 66 homers and 194 RBIs. He signed a free-agent contract with Houston in January 2015.
Still fond of St. Louis
Enough time has passed that the left-handed hitting Rasmus can reflect on his two-plus years in St. Louis with a deeper appreciation than he might have had five years ago.
I was very fortunate to play here. I was blessed to play here. It was a great time in my life. A lot of learning experiences, a lot of bumps on the head.
Colby Rasmus on his two-plus seasons with the Cardinals
“I was very fortunate to play here. I was blessed to play here,” said Rasmus, who began Tuesday batting .222 with eight home runs and 35 RBIs. “It was a great time in my life. A lot of learning experiences, a lot of bumps on the head.
“I played hard here. I had a lot of good times here. I have a lot of great friendships still here. (There are) a lot of good people here, fans and staff working at the stadium. I got along with everybody really well. I enjoyed my time.”
Rasmus always believed that time would have lasted longer.
“I hated the way things ended up,” he said, referring to hurt feelings between him, La Russa and teammates. “I definitely didn’t see that happening when I first got drafted by the Cardinals. That wasn’t how I saw my trip here in St. Louis going.
“But things happen for a reason. I don’t hold a grudge toward anything. As a little kid, I never thought I would even make it to the big leagues. To be able to play in the big leagues and put a Cardinals uniform on, I feel blessed to have done that.”
Rasmus claims he’s not the same person he was at the time of the trade, which occurred when he was just 24. Rasmus has since married and become a father of two girls.
“Back then, I was a young guy,” he said. “I was 22 years old (in 2009) on a team full of pretty stout veteran players that really had their thing going on in the environment they had created. So it was a tough time coming in and breaking into a situation like that.
“We’re a young team, the Astros. I just try to be good to people and make them feel like they’re big-leaguers. That’s kind of the feeling I wanted to have. I worked my whole life to get to a certain spot, to feel like a big-leaguer, to be a big-leaguer, carry myself like a big-leaguer. I try to treat all our guys in that same way, in that respect, that they’re all big-leaguers.”
Rasmus took a subtle swing at La Russa for building a businesslike atmosphere that extended from the field to the clubhouse. Rasmus never felt like he could be himself.
“I put so much pressure on myself to do good and produce and be all that was asked me to be,” Rasmus said. “It probably hindered me (from being) able to really spread my wings and kind of be who I could be. After learning that about myself, I’ve tried in the best ways I could to just enjoy the game and enjoy the process of being a big-league baseball player.”