Aaron Fitt

Ramsey walks the walk - leading in the clubhouse as well as everywhere else

by Aaron Fitt June 25, 2012 in Baseball

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In more than three decades as Florida State’s head coach, Mike Martin has coached his share of special Seminoles. Every now and then, a Florida State player comes along that embodies everything Martin looks for in a young man. He felt that way about Buster Posey, Baseball America’s 2008 College Player of the Year, and he feels that way about James Ramsey.

“I cannot say that I’ve had anybody like this in the program,” Martin said. “Buster Posey was one of a kind. Buster was as good a leader as we’ve ever had in this program and will never be forgotten. And I’ve got to say that James Ramsey is a leader. Buster Posey would be very proud to call James Ramsey his teammate.”

That is about the highest compliment Martin can give a player. Ramsey meant as much to Florida State for his leadership skills as for his incredible offensive production. Factor in his superb academic track record and presence in the community, and Ramsey seems like the perfect choice as the 2012 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award winner.

“When you read a description of what that award symbolizes, you’re describing James Ramsey,” Martin said. “I’m very proud for him.”

Ramsey, in addition to putting up numbers big enough to earn him first-team All-America honors (.378/.513/.652 with 13 homers and 58 RBIs in 233 at-bats), is the consummate Seminole. That he turned down a signing bonus in excess of $500,000 as a 22nd-round pick by the Twins last year in order to return for his senior year is a testament to his love for his university, the baseball program and his academic development.

It would seem Ramsey was destined to become one of the great leaders in Florida State history. His mother, Mary, was a track star at Florida State. His father, Craig, was a captain on Martin’s first team—his 1980 College World Series team.

James is the captain for the team that delivered Martin his 1,700th career victory at Georgia Tech, and the first player in Florida State history to wear the letter “C” on his chest.

“I think my dad jokingly gives 11 (Martin) a hard time, saying, ‘Where was my C?’ ” Ramsey said.

“This guy,” Martin said, “is the epitome of a captain. I try not to talk too much about this guy, but it’s hard not to, when you have a rare breed on your club. He’s mentally tough, he’s physically tough, he’s the unquestioned leader of our club. A lot of people talk the talk. He walks the walk.”

Ramsey was a four-sport star at Wesleyan (Ga.) High—he played tennis as well as baseball during the spring—but baseball was always his passion. He was a standout student, a member of the National Honor Society, French honors society and math honors society, as well as president of the school’s spirit club and an active participant in student government.

When it came time to look for a college, Ramsey sought a balance of academics and athletics. He visited Yale, attended camps at Virginia, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest, met with the coaches at North Carolina. But he said Tallahassee was where his heart was always pulling him.

At FSU, Ramsey was a finance major with minors in religion and real estate. He is a three-time recipient of the Golden Torch Award, given to the player with the highest GPA on the baseball team.

He is the president of two campus organizations, including one that he founded with former FSU quarterback Christian Ponder called Red Cross Noles, which trained and certified about 300 people in CPR last fall. He also has served as president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council for two years.

“I think I operate at the most efficient level when I am the busiest,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey’s Christian faith is an important part of who he is, and he is most proud of the nation-wide listserv he started for Christian athletes to share messages of encouragement and inspiration with each other. One of the major reasons Ramsey decided to come back to school was that he takes seriously his position as a role model.

When Ramsey went to play for Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League last summer, it took no time at all for Y-D coach Scott Pickler to recognize his unique makeup.

“When we took him in the summer, everybody said he plays really hard—it’s not false intensity, that’s the way he approaches the game,” Pickler said. “He approaches life that way and the game that way. He comes to play every day. He wants to win, and he’s a student of the game.”

Scouts were surprised last summer when Ramsey spurned the Twins to return to school, knowing he would lose leverage as a college senior and would likely fetch a much smaller bonus no matter how he performed.

“The Twins put a great baseball and financial opportunity in front of me that a lot of people wouldn’t blink at,” Ramsey said. “But I just felt like I had some unfinished business at Florida State. After my decision, I never looked back.

“But I’m going to do whatever it takes to be successful at the major league level. The sixth tool of makeup is more important than ever: having a guy that wins, has his head on straight, is a committed team guy. I’m the kind of guy you want leading your clubhouse—I’m going to play 110 percent every day, and nobody can doubt that.”

Ramsey has gotten immeasurably better as a player since arriving in Tallahassee four years ago as an infielder. He made the transition to right field, and this year to center, where he has a chance to stick. He’s not a blazing runner, but Martin said the Seminoles have timed him at quicker than 4.0 seconds to first base.

He also continued to take ground balls at second base, and Martin believes he could become a solid second baseman. He has solid power from the left side, though he doesn’t profile as a masher. But he has an innate ability to put the barrel on the ball, and he has worked hard to transform himself from a dead-pull hitter to somebody who can hit the ball hard the other way as well.

“He can grind out at-bats, he’s got speed, he can get on bases,” a National League crosschecker said. “He’s just a baseball rat. It seems like he’s starting to realize what type of player he is.”

His all-around package of tools and makeup has made Ramsey one of the great players in Florida State history. With his bloodlines, that fate seemed almost preordained—but it took an awful lot of hard work to make that destiny a reality.

And Ramsey was rewarded for his decision to come back for his senior year. The Cardinals drafted him in the first round—No. 23 overall.

Ramsey left his mark at Florida State, and he will no doubt leave a similar imprint in professional ball and everywhere else he goes in life. He’s the sort of person who makes life better for people around him. The Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award couldn’t have gone to a more worthy candidate.

“It’s a great award because I think it really looks at everything you do,” Ramsey said. “You have to be a very successful player, but then you also have to do a lot of things in the classroom and the community, with your faith. What it really says is a guy’s tapped into his potential. He’s tapped into his potential in all walks of life, and he’s trying to make a difference in college athletics. And that’s definitely me.”

“That’s someone that, even as a junior, I look up to,” FSU second baseman Devon Travis said. “He’s such a great guy, such a great teammate. He puts on a display of what college baseball’s all about.”