Baseball in his blood

SEALE, Ala. — Back in February, long before the 90-degree temperatures, Russell County second baseman Cyle Rasmus created some goals.

His goals mirrored those that older brother Colby — who is rated the No. 1 prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals organization by Baseball America — had for his junior year.

Forty runs scored. Check.

Forty runs batted in. The Warriors' leadoff hitter has accomplished that too.

Ten home runs. He reached that when he hit a three-run home run against Opelika in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A quarterfinals.

Cyle, the second youngest of the four brothers, has the opportunity to reach his other three goals this weekend when the Warriors (43-9) attempt to win their second title in the three year.

Russell County plays Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (42-19) in the first game today at Montgomery’s Paterson Field at 2 p.m.

His other goals are to bat .400, steal 40 bases and hit 20 doubles. Cyle currently is batting .391 with 38 stolen bases and 17 doubles.

Cyle is trying to follow in the footsteps of his two older brothers, Colby and Cory, who were both drafted in the amateur baseball draft after high school. Colby was selected 28th overall by the Cardinals in the 2005 draft, while Cory went 38th to the Atlanta Braves in 2006.

"It makes you hungry and makes you want to do better," Cyle said. "You see them driving a new car, and you want to have the chance to get one."

With Colby’s success during his short career in the minors, Cyle looks to him to improve as a player.

"He’s had a lot of success and my goal is to do that one day," Cyle said of Colby, who is hitting .291 with 16 doubles and six home runs with the Springfield Cardinals, St. Louis’ Double-A affiliate.

"Everyone needs a good role model, so I look to my brother."

Cyle spent countless hours during the offseason working with Colby, trying to pick up small things that will make him a better player.

Cyle, a 5-foot-9 junior, gives Colby most of the credit for him stealing so many bases this season. It doesn’t hurt that Cyle runs the 60-meter dash in 6.5 seconds.

"The speed definitely helps," Cyle said. "But if you have no idea how to run the bases, it’s not going to help."

Cyle worked on reading a pitcher’s delivery to the plate, which allows him to get a better jump to steal second base. Colby would be the pitcher and show Cyle a variety of different pick-off moves and deliveries to the plate.

Colby doesn’t just work out with his brothers, Cyle and Case, but the entire Russell County team. And that makes no one happier than Russell County coach Tony Rasmus.

"When Colby says something they’ll listen to him and try to fix it," Tony said. "When I say it, my kids don’t really listen because I’m still only dad. . . . With Colby though, it’s a little different."

With some goals set and a lot of time trying to get better in the offseason, Cyle has put together his best high school season.

He leads the team in runs scored, RBIs, doubles, home runs and stolen bases. He has the second-highest batting average behind right fielder, Bryce Lane, who is batting .422. Jeremy Boyte is also hitting .391.

The good performance has helped him put a disappointing sophomore season behind him. After scoring 60 runs as a freshman on the team that won the 5A title and was named No. 1 in the nation by USA Today and Baseball America, Cyle took a step back last season.

Most of those struggles were likely because he was playing with fractured vertebrae in his lower back. The injury wasn’t discovered until the summer after the season was completed.

"I wouldn’t use that as an excuse," Cyle said. "I didn’t play well and it wasn’t in the cards. I just have to move past that and put it behind me."

Cyle was one of three Russell County players to suffer a similar injury. No surgery was necessary as it heals itself with rest, Tony said.

Tony said he thinks it likely occurred from doing leg-press workouts. So the Warriors cut leg presses out of their workouts, and no one was suffered that injury this season.

"When we work out, we work like crazy people," Tony said. "We might have pushed ourselves too hard. So we stopped doing that and are trying to fix that problem."

Cyle hasn’t shown any ill-effects of the injury this season. The only struggle he has had this season is trying to keep weight on.

The 5-foot-9 second baseman started the season at 160 pounds and is down to 140. He doesn’t have the same frame that Colby, who is 6-2, 193, and Cory, who is 6-3, 210, have.

"We are the runts of the family," Cyle said of Case, who is 5-10, 170.

When he’s between the white lines, Cyle gives his best effort on every play. Whether it’s trying to make a relay throw to turn a double play or diving for a ground ball, Cyle goes full speed.

"When you are small, you got to play hard," he said. "The bigger players might be a little lazier, and you can make up for the lack of size with extra effort."

Tony knows that Cyle’s stature might be the only thing that keeps him from being drafted next year.

"He’s just a little bitty thing," Tony said. "If he was 6-foot-2, he would be drafted in the first two rounds.

"There aren’t many high school middle infielders like him."