ST. LOUIS - Florida State outfielder James Ramsey doesn't shy away from comparisons to former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. He welcomes them.
Ramsey, selected by the Cardinals with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of the MLB Draft Monday night, has been compared by many draft experts to Tebow because of his outspoken Christian faith, leadership skills and team-first mentality.
"I think it's an extreme compliment," Ramsey said. "I've always been a fan of Tim's, just being a man of God first of all but also how he goes about his business. You wouldn't describe my college experience as very conventional and that's the way Tim kind of lives his life as well.
"There were always people saying he couldn't play quarterback, he couldn't be all SEC, he couldn't win a national championship, he couldn't lead a lot of people to Christ. I kind of delight in the challenge of knowing that I can delight in my inabilities and let God take over."
The Cardinals just hope Ramsey can someday help them fulfill another Tebow trait: win. The ACC Player of the Year is hitting .385 with 13 home runs, 72 runs scored, 55 RBI and 80 hits in 208 at-bats this season for the Seminoles, who are set to host Stanford in the NCAA Super Regionals this weekend.
Ramsey was a highly recruited shortstop coming out of high school, drawing serious interest from many Ivy League schools. But he signed with Florida State, where he played all four infield positions during fall practices his freshman year.
He entered spring practice as an infielder before legendary Florida State coach Mike Martin handed him an outfielders glove and told him he'd be starting in left field when they played the University of Florida in three days.
"It was kind of a rude awakening because I felt like I was a big time recruit and I hadn't played the outfield, but the next year I became the cleanup hitter," Ramsey said. "I've always believed in myself. The labels that were put on me didn't affect me. I'm a pretty intrinsically motivated person. I don't worry what the outsiders believe. I know the guys in the clubhouse have the utmost respect for me and that's what I want to earn."
The 6-foot, 190-pound Ramsey was ranked as the seventh best center field prospect in the draft by Baseball America. He was the first player in Martin's 33 years as head coach at FSU to wear the 'C' as team captain. While producing solid numbers on the field, he's liked for his intangibles and off the field makeup just as much.
Baseball America said of Ramsey, "He's an above-average runner who might be able to stick in center field, though some scouts question his instincts there and doubt he could stick there in a larger home park. Ramsey has average power, an average and accurate arm sufficient for right field but may not have corner power.
"He's a safe bet to be a big leaguer, with scouts split on just how much impact he has."
The Cardinals project him to remain in center field.
"We targeted James as somebody we didn't want to miss in the draft and we weren't sure if he was going to be there at 36," Cardinals scouting director Dan Kantrovitz said of the Cardinals next pick. "He has off the charts makeup and we look forward to the negotiations and hopefully getting him in a Cardinals uniform soon."
Ramsey hinted that signing wouldn't be a problem, saying he wants to begin his path to the big leagues as soon as possible and is honored to join a team with as much history and tradition as the Cardinals.
The left-handed hitting Ramsey was a 22nd round pick by the Minnesota Twins last year but said he had unfinished business at Florida State and decided to return for his senior season. Among the reasons he returned was because he was the President of two different campus organizations that he didn't want to abandon.
Ramsey also wanted to finish his degree in the honors program, where he finished magna cum laude in finance and, "really show people that you can go back and earn your degree that nobody can take from you."
Asked about how he describes himself as a player, Ramsey said, "I may not be the sexiest prospect. I'm not 6-4 and 220 pounds and don't run a 6.2 60 yard dash but I feel like I have a blue color game and always am working hard and finding places in my game I can improve upon.
"I do the things that you kind of look at and realize that he has moxie, he does the things that it takes to win. He's always been the kind of guy that is straight laced off the field and goes about his business and represents an organization really well. I want to make guys better around me and that's the kind of thing I think I can bring to the table."
The Cardinals made four other selections Monday night, including Texas A&M right-hander Michael Wacha with their first pick at No. 19 overall. They took Stanford University outfielderthird baseman Stephen Piscotty with the 36th overall pick, third baseman Patrick Wisdom of St. Mary's College at No. 52 and Texas high school catcher Steve Bean at No. 59.
The Draft continues Tuesday with rounds 2-15 and Wednesday with rounds 16-40.