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Valley / Ventura County Sports

Time-honored Attitude

Moorpark's Rasmussen Recalls the Gritty Players of Baseball's Bygone Era

April 03, 1999|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MOORPARK — He's cut from a mold hardly used anymore. He talks about the game with reverence and plays it with infectious gusto.

When it comes to baseball, there's just no ambiguity to Wes Rasmussen.

"I always want to go out and get dirty and play hard-nosed," Rasmussen said. "I try to respect the game of baseball, how it was played in the old days."

Call him a throwback, an anachronism, a rarity. But don't call him late for a game.

Rasmussen, a 6-foot senior shortstop and pitcher at Moorpark High, loves to play baseball. And play it well.

He's batting .444 with three home runs and seven runs batted in as Moorpark's leadoff hitter, and he's playing smoothly in the field, displaying the slick glove and strong arm that ranks him among the best shortstops in the region.

The Musketeers (6-5, 2-2), making noise in the tough Marmonte League after winning the Frontier League title last season, also depend on Rasmussen for pitching.

So Rasmussen, ever the accommodating competitor, frequently pitches in relief. He's 1-0 with three saves and hasn't allowed a run in 12 1/3 innings, striking out 21 and walking none.

"It's kind of funky coming in under pressure and trying to get outs," Rasmussen said. "I don't think I'll be doing that in college, though."

Scott Fullerton, Moorpark's coach, agrees. Rasmussen signed in November with Cal State Northridge, which recruited him as a shortstop, meaning his pitching days probably are numbered.

"He knows his future is in the infield, but he's willing to pitch to help us get wins," Fullerton said.

"The best thing about him is he's all character. For example, we'll do a little drill in practice and he'll dive for balls."

Rasmussen wouldn't have it any other way. He has watched videos of major leaguers from bygone times, guys who weren't slackers or pampered. He tries to emulate their attitudes.

"They were good [baseball] role models," Rasmussen said. "I see a lot of good ballplayers that have all the talent in the world but not the character, and you always wonder what could have been. They just don't want to strive to go to the next level."

That step comes for Rasmussen next year, when he joins the Matadors, who are struggling this season with an inexperienced team but who consistently rank among the top Division I programs in the nation.

"Mostly what we like about him is his makeup and his work ethic," said Mike Batesole, Northridge's coach. "He's got great instincts because he has played the game for a long time already.

"He's the hard-working kind of guy we like to recruit here."

Rasmussen's work to hone his skills doesn't end with practices or games. He takes private hitting lessons every week and regularly attends a night workout class at Moorpark College.

"To keep the muscles toned and to stay fit," Rasmussen said. "Baseball is not much of a fitness sport."

Although only 160 pounds, Rasmussen has enough power to hit home runs, like the 375-foot blast he smashed against heralded Chris Cordeiro of Thousand Oaks in Moorpark's 6-5 loss on Tuesday.

But, Rasmussen said, hitting the long ball is not his primary objective.

"I try to go the other way as much as possible," Rasmussen said. "I don't try to hit home runs. I just try to make hard contact to the gaps."

And keep his nose to the grindstone.

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