Rasmus finds refuge in outdoors during offseason

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 ~ Updated 12:02 AM
St. Louis Cardinals mascot Fredbird and outfielder Colby Rasmus greet fans with high-fives Monday during the Cardinals Caravan's visit at the Osage Centre. (Fred Lynch)

There has been a lot of talk about St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus this offseason.

There's been talk of a feud between him and manager Tony LaRussa that was talked about for much of last season. Talk of the feud between him and LaRussa being over. Talk of teams inquiring about trading for him. Talk about him wanting to be traded.

There's been talk about how good he has been and talk about just how good the 24 year old eventually will be.

But in what probably has been the loudest offseason of his much-discussed career, Rasmus made it a point to find the quiet during his time away from the field, the team and the questions.

"It's been peaceful," Rasmus said of his offseason. "I've been doing a lot of hunting and fishing."

Rasmus was back in the spotlight at the Cardinals Caravan program Monday night at the Osage Centre. Even before the night got off to its official start, Rasmus was the No. 1 target for photo and autograph seekers in a private meet-and-greet.

He looked less comfortable in the center of attention than he does in center field, but he looked the part of a professional as he posed and smiled for as many as four cameras at a time and scribbled his name on balls, bats, hats and more.

"This has probably been the most fun I've had in an offseason," Rasmus said. "I'm definitely excited and looking forward to the season, hoping it'll give me a little more energy, so to speak."

The decision to have more fun, more peace and to relax this offseason was a conscious one. The season, he agreed, is long enough without making it feel longer in the offseason.

"No doubt about it," Rasmus said. "Exactly. Exactly.

"I've had offseasons where I've gone home and taken a week off and I'm right back in the gym hitting and doing everything, so I told myself I wanted to go home this offseason and just relax, kick back, have some fun and then be fresh going into the season."

After he received the loudest ovation of the night from the almost 800 fans in attendance, Rasmus was pelted with questions as he sat alongside Daniel Descalso, the only other current Cardinals player in attendance.

He predicted he would hit second or sixth in the lineup and that newly signed outfielder Lance Berkman would take the No. 5 spot. He encouraged kids in the crowd to play as many sports as possible while growing up, saying it would help them avoid trouble and the wrong crowd.

He also was asked how he felt after he hit his first home run in the major leagues.

"It felt good, but we were losing like 7-0 to the Nationals at the time, so Tony wasn't very happy," he said with a smile, drawing laughs from the crowd.

"I celebrated with myself. No one else really cared."

Descalso, an infielder who played in 11 games for the Cardinals at the end of last season after being called up from Class AAA, was asked by one young fan when he planned to make the majors.

"Last year I got to be a part of spring training," he had said earlier in the night before the fan questioning began. "I didn't have a chance to make the team, but this year I think I've got a pretty good shot at winning a job, so it's going to be a little different for me, but it should be fun.

"I'm excited. I'm excited to go down there and compete for a job and just try to break camp with the club."

Like Rasmus, Descalso said some rest after the season is needed.

"I just have the first month relaxing -- doing nothing," Descalso said. "It's a long season. You've got to take some time to let your body rest and recuperate, but after that, it's get back in the weight room, start getting your conditioning going again for a little while."

Rasmus, who talked quietly and with a slightly southern accent, returned home to Alabama after completing his second full season in the major leagues with a .276 batting average, 23 home runs and 66 RBIs.

He hunted for deer and hogs, among other game, at home and even made a trip to Illinois to hunt geese for the first time -- an experience he called awesome.

"I just try to stay in the woods and keep my mind off baseball so that way when I get in the season I'll be relaxed and ready to play," he said.

He still has spent plenty of days working on his body and his game, but he's allowed himself more time away from a baseball player's grind.

"I've been in the gym for a couple months now, but I took some time in the beginning," Rasmus said. "What I mean by a little more relaxed is if I want to miss a day, I take a day off instead of staying in there every day. I'll take a day off and go do whatever it is I want to do."

The results have been positive and all the talk is hard to hear in the woods, which you get the feeling is the point.

"I feel good," he said, with just about a month to go before the start of spring training. "I feel a little more fresh, not letting things weigh on me. Even living in Alabama, I try to get away from all the talk and this and that. It's still hard sometimes because there's fans everywhere and people always want to know what's going on with baseball, so it's hard to get away from it sometimes, but this year I've tried to do that."

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