When Tony Rasmus resigned his position at Florence High after one year as the school's baseball coach, he said the first thing he would do before thinking about the future was come home and be with his family.
On Tuesday, when he announced he was returning to Russell County High as its baseball coach, he gave the same reason.
"I didn't call Russell County first," said Rasmus, who had already been approved as a science teacher at the school. "But my thought process was that I'd love to go back there. This is my home, always has been. I've got nothing bad to say about Florence. I just love this place."
He has family in Phenix City, including two grandchildren and three more--one each from sons Casey, Cory and Colby--on the way this year. Coaching the Warriors, where he won 401 games over 13 seasons, a state championship in 2005 and a state runner-up in 2007, was the most logical option for him.
"On this side of the river, we were the most dominant team over the last decade or so," he said. "(The players) took pride in Russell County. There isn't always a ton to brag on, but our baseball team was one thing the community and the kids could really take pride in. I think there's some excitement in hoping we can get it back to where it was."
Rasmus left Russell County after a 2013 season in which the team made it to the state semifinals, taking over at a team that was coming off a losing record at Florence. He helped lead Florence to 25 wins and a playoff berth in 2014.
The Warriors managed just a pair of wins this past season in the absence of Rasmus. And while it may appear he is coming in at the ground floor like he did when he took over in 2001, he doesn't see it that way.
"Not as much as it was then," he said. "There was going to be a dropoff last year regardless. We lost a lot of great players. Not good--great. When you lose a Hunter Webb, a Jesse Nelson, an Anfernee Grier, that's what happens.
"Don't get me wrong. We won't be able to just roll bats and balls out there like we did in the past. We'll have to teach and do a lot of coaching--a lot more than we had to at the end last time. But it comes in cycles. You just don't have a JV team full of 10th graders ready to step in when seniors leave. You have to start back in seventh grade and build from there."
When rumors of his return first started making their way around town, Rasmus said he got texts from some of the Russell County players expressing their excitement about returning the team to its former level. A handful of players have used his home gym and hitting facility since he's been back.
"I think they're all excited about it," he said. "I am too."