Former Russell County High School baseball standout Colby Rasmus, who helped the Phenix City National All-Stars win the U.S. championship at the 1999 Little League World Series, has left Major League Baseball. His team, the Tampa Bay Rays, didn’t disclose the reason, but his father, Tony, alluded to injuries, saying on Facebook that “Colby’s body has taken a beating.”
The Tampa Bay Rays announced Thursday that they placed Rasmus on the restricted list.
"The Rays fully support Colby's decision to step away from baseball,” the Rays said in a news release posted on their website. “We are thankful for his contributions to our team, and we wish him and his family the best as they move forward. Respecting the privacy of Colby and his family, the Rays will have no further comment."
Baseball-reference.com explains the restricted list:
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“The restricted list is a compendium of players who are out of organized baseball but are not free agents. A team can request that a player be placed on the restricted list if that player has left the team without a valid reason or has announced his intention to retire but is still of an age or level of skill that could allow him to return to professional baseball in the future. In effect, the team states that it retains rights to the player if and when he becomes active again. The list is also used to place a player who is unavailable to play for non-baseball reasons, such as personal issues or trouble with the law.”
Tampa Bay Times staff writer Roger Mooney wrote, “Rasmus signed a one-year, $5 million contract Jan. 30. Since players do not get paid when on the restricted list, the team will save a little more than $2.2 million.
“His season has been slowed by complications stemming from offseason surgery to his hip and for a sports hernia. Tendinitis in the area sent Rasmus to the disabled list at the start of the season. He returned, only to go back on the 10-day DL on June 23 with left hip tendinitis.
“It appears Rasmus, 30, was frustrated from the injuries and the rehab and wanted to spend time with his family.”
This season, Rasmus was hitting .281 with nine home runs and 23 RBI in 129 at-bats and 37 games. This was his ninth MLB season, compiling a .242 batting average, 165 home runs and 490 RBI in 3,659 at-bats during his career.
Rasmus made his MLB debut in 2009 with the St. Louis Cardinals. They selected him in the first round with the 28th overall pick in the 2005 draft after he won an Alabama state championship with Russell County High School that year.
The other MLB teams Rasmus played for are the Toronto Blue Jays and the Houston Astros. His most prominent successful moments came with the Astros in 2015, when he set an MLB record for notching an extra-base hit in each of his first six career postseason games, including his time with the Cardinals. He led the Astros in the 2015 playoffs with a .412 batting average (7-for-17), four home runs and six RBI.
Despite being traded from the Cardinals to the Blue Jays midway through the 2011 season, following disagreements with manager Tony La Russa, he received a World Series championship ring after the Cardinals went on to win the title.
Rasmus’ father, Tony, who coached him on those Russell County High and Phenix City Little League teams, posted this explanation on his Facebook page:
"Well a sad day today as Colby's hip just wouldn't heal and I'm not sure he wanted to have another surgery on it. Playing in the big leagues is a tough gig and Colby's body has taken a beating. So he's saying goodbye to Major League Baseball. Man it's sure been fun watching him play. 8 plus years and 165 home runs for a skinny kid from Phenix city Alabama just isn't too bad.”
In an interview Friday with the Ledger-Enquirer, Tony Rasmus expressed bewilderment about the cryptic way the Rays announced his son’s departure.
Tony said, “I had so many people calling me saying, ‘My God, I’m praying for him and his family.’ And I’m like, ‘What? Why?’ We appreciate all the prayers, don’t get me wrong, but there’s nothing wrong. It’s just his hip.”
The Rays’ statement “reads like he should be on suicide watch,” Tony said. “It leaves the wrong impression, that there’s something happening, but there’s nothing,” he said.
The Ledger-Enquirer tried to get an explanation from the Rays. Ben Yarrington, the intern answering the phone in the team’s communications department, referred questions to Dave Haller, the team’s senior communications director, but the L-E didn’t reach Haller for comment Friday.
Tony said Colby told him he “wasn’t coming back until he’s healthy. He just didn’t want to be rehabbing the rest of the year, and I don’t think he wanted to take their money if he wasn’t playing. He’s a weirdo when it comes to that.”
Colby is more concerned, Tony said, “with being able to walk 10 years from now. … At this stage of the game, you don’t need the money.”
Asked whether Colby is retiring, Rasmus said, “If his hip heals up, he may want to come back and play again. You don’t want to close any door.”