MINNEAPOLIS -- Long before he knew the trajectory of his own baseball career, James Ramsey sat in the Turner Field stands mesmerized by the budding young talent he watched as a wide-eyed 10-year-old.
He was a spectator then, watching the 2000 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game alongside his dad and brother in his hometown. He was a participant on Sunday, a player molded by who he watched that July day in Atlanta.
"I remember in the game that guys were having a lot of fun, but they were also playing the game hard," Ramsey said from Target Field. "That's how I've tried to model my game. It is funny how it all comes full circle."
Ramsey, a first-round pick by the Cardinals in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, was the Cardinals' lone representative at Sunday's Futures Game. Marco Gonzales traded his roster spot for a call-up to the Majors last month. Ramsey continues to wait merely for the summons to Triple-A.
Ramsey has already checked off all the development boxes in Double-A, a level he first reached in 2013. He simplified the mechanics to his swing this year, the result of which is a more direct path to the ball. Those changes were initiated by lessons learned from watching, in particular, Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams in the batting cage during Spring Training.
Ramsey has continued to fare well defensively, putting in time both in center and right. And the 24-year-old has impressed with his mental fortitude, something that has been tested with two trips to the disabled list. He was sidelined most recently by an intercostal muscle strain, which healed just in time for Ramsey to participate in this showcase event.
"I just wanted to find out who I am, how I react to certain situations, and whether it's good, bad or indifferent, to be the same guy every day," said Ramsey, ranked as the organization's No. 6 prospect by MLB.com. "I feel like I've been able to be a very consistent, not just producer, but person. I haven't struggled as much this year, but it's more the mental struggle of getting over those hurdles and the injuries."
Outside of Ramsey's control, though, is the logjam of young outfielders blocking his ascension. He has Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, Shane Robinson and Tommy Pham ahead of him in Triple-A Memphis, where there would be no obvious spot for Ramsey to take. Oscar Taveras, the organization's top outfield prospect, just recently graduated from that group.
The Cardinals prioritize everyday playing time for Ramsey, and so he remains at a level where he has hit .303/.384/.537 with 12 home runs and 41 runs scored in 54 games.
"I think career-wise, you want to be moving up as fast as you can. You want that opportunity," Ramsey said. "But I think there is value in having to learn how to deal with these situations. I want to be in an organization that wins and plays the game the right way. Even if you have to wait longer for that opportunity, I think it will be worth it. Yeah, you'd like to be progressing along. But I also think that the arms I've faced in the Texas League, I really would rival them against most leagues you see as far as actual big league ability."
Sunday's showcase gave Ramsey another opportunity to prove himself equal with the best. He entered in the sixth inning to play left field, an outfield position he actually has never played professionally. Ramsey grounded out in his only at-bat.
"I'm just enjoying being around a group of guys who are all going to be in the big leagues and being able to compete at a high level," Ramsey said. "It's another checkpoint. Just being honored among the best on the way to the big leagues, it's just a big compliment that you're doing things the right way and are on your path.
"It's funny, they call it the Futures Game, but I feel like for a lot of these guys it's the near future. They're really close, knocking on the door, and to feel like you're one of those guys is really cool."