PHENIX CITY, Ala. (WRBL) – One of the most successful high school baseball coaches in Alabama was convicted late Monday afternoon of third-degree assault on one of his players during a game last season.
Suspended Russell County Coach Tony Rasmus was found guilty in a bench trial in front of District Court Judge Zack Collins. The judge did not sentence Rasmus to jail time, but did order a $500 fine and that the coach attend an anger management course.
Rasmus’ attorney Jim McKoon says he will appeal the verdict.
Collins, who grew up in south Columbus and played ball at the old Baker High School, was troubled by the testimony.
“There is obviously a culture of abuse in that program,” Collins said before he announced the sentence.
Rasmus has had more players drafted in the Major League Draft, including two of his sons, than any other coach in Alabama, but that does not justify putting hands on a player.
The player Rasmus allegedly assaulted, who cannot be identified because he is 16 and a minor, told the judge that he was immediately yanked from a home game on Feb. 16 against Rehobeth following an error.
The boy testified that assistant coach Cyle Rasmus, the head coach’s son, told him he “sucked” in an expletive-filled manner.
Wayne Cook, an active duty Army officer who has had three sons and one stepson play for Rasmus, told the court he heard Cyle Rasmus tell the player “You aren’t worth a f—. Sit down.”
The boy said he then returned to the bench, where Tony Rasmsus confronted him.
According to the boy, Tony Rasmus accused him of talking back and grabbed him by the throat. The boy told the court it lasted 10-15 seconds, that it hurt and he could not breathe.
Rasmus’s defense attorney, Jim McKoon, asked the player about conflicting statements he made to authorities.
The boy told a Sheriff’s investigator he was choked. In an interview at a child advocacy agency, the boy said his coach grabbed him by the chin and it hurt.
Under direct cross examination, the boy told the court he was choked.
Two former Russell County players told the court the player was choked by Tony Rasmus. Another player and an assistant coach said they did not see Rasmus touch the player.
Cyle Rasmus did not testify.
During his testimony, Tony Rasmus, who has coached 23 years at the school, said he got between his son and the player because he thought it was about to get out of hand.
“Cyle can mouth off as good as anybody,” Tony Rasmus said. “Cyle, it’s like he’s one of the kids.”
The player did not tell his parents. They were informed the next day by the father of another Russell County player.
The boy’s father testified he tried to deal with Rasmus nearly a week later. After that conversation, he told the court he feared Rasmus would retaliate against his son on the field and with potential college recruiters. That’s why he filed assault charges.
The father told the judge he was concerned that Rasmus would retaliate against his son and cost him a college scholarship when the time came. He said he had talked to a former Rasmus player who told him Rasmus cost his son a scholarship to the University of Alabama.
Tony Rasmus was suspended following his arrest in early March and did not coach for the remainder of the season. It is unclear what the conviction will do to his employment status.
Rasmus has two sons, Colby and Cory, who play in the major leagues. All four of his sons played professional baseball.
Cook told the court players have to be mentally tough to play for Rasmus, who admitted his staff is tough on players.
“At some point, he was bound to run up on somebody who was going to say something, and he did,” the judge said.
The player who was assaulted has since transferred schools. Tony Rasmus contended the boy wanted to leave to be at the same school as his girlfriend. Two players testified that Rasmus encouraged his players not to have girlfriends, but did encourage them to have sex with girls.