La Crosse Loggers designated hitter Luke Rasmussen stands out in a crowd.
To put it simply, Rasmussen is a physical marvel. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior from Long Beach State nearly crushes your hand when you shake his.
“When you talk about strength, he is a specimen,” Loggers manager Brian Lewis said. “When you get up next to him, his forearms, his legs, you can tell he is in the weight room all the time. He’s a big, strong kid.”
That size and strength had Major League Baseball scouts taking notice, and even more so when Rasmussen hit a combined .310 with 11 home runs and 63 RBI during his freshman and sophomore seasons for the Dirtbags. A first baseman and outfielder, he was seemingly primed for another strong season and setting himself up to be an early-round draft pick in the 2017 draft.
Then a shoulder injury derailed his career.
While throwing in the fall, Rasmussen began to experience pain in his right shoulder. It turned out to be an impingement that caused inflammation and irritation in his rotator cuff. Rasmussen didn’t need surgery, and eventually was cleared to resume throwing. The Long Beach State coaching staff, however, decided to play it safe throughout the spring and used him extensively as a designated hitter.
“I got cleared by the doctors,” Rasmussen said, “but my coach was like, ‘Oh, I don’t want you throwing. I just want you to hit all year. Just DH. That’s what’s best for the team.’ I was like alright, I’ll just do that, I guess.”
Unfortunately for Rasmussen, playing exclusively as a DH hurt his draft stock. It also didn’t help matters that Rasmussen struggled to duplicate the success he had as a freshman and a sophomore. Rasmussen started 60 games — all at DH — for Long Beach State, but hit just .246 with one home run and 33 RBI. Yet, he refused to use the shoulder injury as an excuse for his struggles.
“I think teams kind of just adjusted to me,” Rasmussen said. “They weren’t going to let me beat them, I think. I don’t know. I just had a down year.”
Rasmussen was tested again — this time mentally — during Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft when he heard name after name called, but not his own. Three days of the draft, no mention of the one-time powerful slugger from Long Beach State.
Major League teams were not convinced to take a chance on a player that struggled at the plate and couldn’t throw.
“I had talked to a couple of teams,” Rasmussen said. “They had said what was my money situation? Then they had questions about my shoulder and stuff. That kind of turned teams away.
“I filled out questionnaires. I knew teams were coming to watch me, so I was disappointed. I know I’ve got to get better, too, so I’m glad I can come back and have fun and prove that I can play a position.”
Rasmussen said he expects to continue to be the Loggers primary DH, but he looks forward to getting get back in the field. He will begin a throwing program shortly in hopes of returning to first base sometime soon. As for his bat, he once again appears to have found his groove. Since joining the Loggers on June 25, Rasmussen has entrenched himself in the cleanup spot in the order. He started red-hot, going 6-for-12 in his first three games with six runs scored and six RBI. Through 11 games, he his hitting .313 with 11 RBI, but more importantly, he has had an impact on the rest of the Loggers’ lineup.
“He brings an element to the lineup that we didn’t have,” Lewis said. “In David Villar, we had some pop in the middle of the order, but really we didn’t have much else. He’s an extra-base hitter — doubles, home runs. He’s a guy that can run it out of the ballpark.”
“He’s confident, too. Coming from Long Beach State, which went to a Super Regional, and he’s been a big part of that program since he’s been there. He’s brought that confidence to go along with the fact that the results are there.”
“When you talk about strength,
he is a specimen.” Loggers’ manager Brian Lewis,
on DH Luke Rasmussen