Milwaukee Brewers rookie and former Mt. Spokane star Drew Rasmussen’s Major League debut was as strange as it was prosperous.
The right-handed pitcher – a fireballer out of NCAA power Oregon State – heard synthetic crowd noise and saw cardboard cutouts of mock fans as he trotted toward the mound in the seventh inning last month to face the Minnesota Twins, his first MLB appearance in a young career shortly derailed by a series of elbow surgeries.
Rasmussen, working with a seven-run cushion, proceeded to retire three of the first four batters he faced at Target Field in Minneapolis, bookended by strikeouts via 99 mph fastball.
In a stadium that would have otherwise housed thousands of live, screaming fans trying to rattle the rookie, he heard little due to mandates preventing spectators inside league venues due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was a good way to get your feet wet,” said Rasmussen, who appeared in four MLB games, carrying a 3.68 ERA in 7 ⅓ innings. “Especially in someone else’s stadium, that would have had 30,000 fans right on top of you.”
The 25-year-old said he was so focused that he likely wouldn’t have heard much in a regular setting.
Rasmussen threw two scoreless innings and recorded three strikeouts, exhibiting the cannon arm that fanned 115 batters as a senior at Mt. Spokane and recorded the first perfect game in Oregon State baseball’s rich history.
The first big-leaguer he faced was Twins slugger and 2017 American League All-Star Miguel Sano.
“It was surreal,” Rasmussen said. “This was a guy I had watched on TV for years.”
Sano struck out swinging on a 2-2 pitch, eliciting a “What a way to start your MLB debut” response from an MLB Network broadcaster.
Whatever nerves Rasmussen had, veteran Brewers catcher Manny Pina helped put them at ease.
“He said ‘Take a deep breath, you deserve this, you belong here and I’ll be here to help,” Rasmussen recalled. “He took great care of me, made throwing the ball a lot easier.”
Getting there was somewhat of a journey.
Rasmussen was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 39th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, but he opted to play college ball, where he was an All-Pac-12 first-team selection as a freshman.
After helping the Beavers reach the College World Series in 2017, Rasmussen, who was 14-5 at Oregon State in a career that included a 2.65 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 170 innings, was the No. 31 overall pick pick the by the Tampa Bay Rays.
It was later reported that Rasmussen had a physical that revealed complications from a previous Tommy John (elbow) surgery that kept the Rays from signing their high draft pick and leading to a second surgery.
Rasmussen not only lost out on a lot of money, but he also lost the entire 2018 season while in rehab and finished his degree at Oregon State.
The Brewers selected Rasmussen in the sixth round in 2018, where he played minor league and development ball for more than two seasons.
“It’s rarely a straight and narrow path to the big leagues,” he said. “(Rehab) was just as mentally taxing it was physically taxing. The goal was to play in a big-league game, and I was fortunately able to do that.”
Family, friends and Mt. Spokane coaches watched from Spokane as Rasmussen made his debut, inundating the young talent with text messages after the game in which he became the latest Inland Northwest product to log MLB innings.
“The Northwest is very undervalued when it comes to baseball. Having more guys in the big leagues is a great way to educate the rest of the country on what we do in the Northwest,” Rasmussen said.
“We don’t have the flashy California or Arizona type player, but grinders, which really represents that area. It’s an honor to represent it.”
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