Cards first-rounder Ramsey strong at plate, in faith
By Jenifer Langosch
NEW YORK -- In the hallway outside the clubhouse inside Dick Howser Stadium at Florida State University, a row of pictures celebrates a unique part of Seminole history. There, displayed as a reminder for current baseball players, are the faces of former FSU players turned first-round draft picks.
James Ramsey will soon be among them.
That's the first thing Ramsey's head coach, Mike Martin, reminded his outfielder of after learning that Ramsey had been selected by the Cardinals with the 23rd overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
"Slide the pictures down," Martin said. "We got a new one to put up."
Ramsey was the second of two players the Cardinals chose in Monday's first round. That 23rd selection belonged to the Cardinals by virtue of the team's final 2011 record. With it, the organization snagged an elite hitting outfielder out of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
They also landed an individual strong in conviction, fearless in his faith and hardly near-sighted.
Ramsey's decision to forgo an offer to sign with the Twins last summer was dictated not so much by baseball goals left unaccomplished, he explained on Monday, but by personal ones he still wanted to attain.
"I felt like I had some unfinished business down here at Florida State," said Ramsey, who has drawn widespread comparison to football player Tim Tebow. "I felt like I had a huge platform for my faith, and not just the city of Tallahassee, but across all of college athletics. I was the president of two different campus organizations and had some leadership things to tend to for another year. I wanted to finish my degree in the honors program where I finished Magna Cum Laude in finance, really showing that you can go back and earn your degree that no one can take from you. Obviously, I want to go and win a national championship, as well."
He still has that chance, as he and his Seminoles teammates have advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals, where they will face Stanford this weekend. Interestingly enough, the 22-year-old senior will have the chance to square off against potential future teammate Stephen Piscotty in that series. Piscotty was taken with the Cardinals' 36th overall selection.
"I am literally elated," Martin said. "This is just a culmination of an unbelievable year for the baseball program when a guy comes back and does what he has done both in the classroom and on the field and then is rewarded by getting what he deserves. The man deserves this and I am very proud of him."
A key piece of the Florida State squad, Ramsey has hit .365 and scored a team-best 72 runs in 61 games. He has 11 doubles, six triples, 13 homers, 55 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .520.
Recruited out of high school as a shortstop, Ramsey found himself thrust into the outfield during his freshman spring season. Some draft publications projected that the 6-foot-1, 190-pound native of Alpharetta, Ga., might end up at second base. For now, the Cardinals don't have such plans.
Scouting director Dan Kantrovitz confirmed after the pick that Ramsey, assuming he signs by the July 13 deadline, will begin his professional career playing center field.
"Ramsey has off the charts makeup," Kantrovitz said. "We look forward to negotiations and hopefully getting him in a Cardinal uniform soon."
While Ramsey profiles to be more of an offensive threat than current Cardinals outfielder Shane Robinson, Martin drew comparisons between the two. Robinson, too, played at Florida State.
Both players, Martin said, seized the opportunity to develop during their college years.
"James can do so many different things to beat you, whether it's making a great play defensively, stealing a base or hitting the ball out of the ballpark," Martin said. "He plays the game one way, and that's wide open. Ramsey is just a winner. That's all there is to it."
The left-handed-hitting Ramsey was honored as the 2012 ACC Player of the Year in recognition of his season. A year before, he was named to the All-ACC First Team after leading the conference in total bases and ranking second with a .364 batting average.
Drafted as a senior, Ramsey is likely to sign without much of a contentious negotiation. The recommended slot signing bonus for the 23rd pick is $1.775 million, though the Cardinals also have to consider how they are going to disperse the $9.1 million they have to spend on their first 14 picks.
Again, citing his faith, Ramsey said that he'll have the patience to let that all play out.
"I may not be the sexiest prospect ... but I feel like I have a blue-collar game where I'm always working hard, seeing places in my game that I can improve upon," Ramsey said. "Altogether, I think I'm the kind of guy that wants to make guys better around me. That's the kind of thing that I think I can bring to the table."