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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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FSU star's challenge: Surpass a superb '05
Centerfielder Shane Robinson is ready for the pressure after a "mind-boggling" year.
By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published February 3, 2006
TALLAHASSEE - Florida State junior centerfielder Shane Robinson has no complaints about his video game incarnation.
The computerized Robinson displays all the skills of the flesh and blood version, from lacing the ball every which way to stealing bases at a Rickey Henderson pace to snuffing out rallies with his vacuumlike glove and breathtaking bravado.
"It's really good," he said, pausing and smiling slyly, "but they might have exaggerated my power; hitting 430-foot homers to rightfield. I don't know about that."
But you have to cut EA Sports a break on that score.
Robinson, the diminutively built 5-foot-9, 165-pound former Jesuit High standout, proved during a breakout season in 2005 that there's really not much he can't do.
Robinson hit .427 with 122 hits, both are the third highest single-season marks in the program's illustrious history. He scored 96 runs, drove in 43, stole 49 bases in 56 attempts and had 35 extra-base hits, including, impressively enough, six homers. His slugging percentage was .605. For his body of work, Robinson earned consensus All-America honors and Collegiate Baseball named him its national player of the year.
"He had a year that was mind-boggling," said FSU coach Mike Martin, whose Seminoles open the season today in the first of three games against visiting Charleston Southern. "And it definitely was not a fluke what he did. When you see him out at the ballpark, you don't look at him as an intimidating person, but you put him with a bat and glove and he becomes an intimidating factor."
Sorry, EA Sports.
Even state-of-the-art graphics can't do that justice.
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Baylor's Steve Smith, who spent the summer as coach of the USA Baseball national team, had never seen Robinson before last year's tryouts and subsequent tour, but he had formed a mental picture based on hard data.
"He had such a high average, the thing you expect is a guy who hits the ball on the ground, bunts and beats out a lot of infield hits," he said. "That's really not the kind of player he is."
Robinson showed he wasn't the stereotypical leadoff hitter.
He packs a punch.
"He surprised me with the power he has," said Smith, who eventually moved Robinson from the top of the lineup to fifth; he hit .296 with one homer and 12 RBIs, tied for the team lead with Tennessee's J.P Arencibia and Florida's Matt LaPorta, renowned sluggers. "He's strong. He's put together well. He really does have some pop, especially for a guy his size."
That kind of caveat has followed Robinson like a dreaded asterisk. It has fueled Robinson throughout his athletic life.
"Ever since I started playing baseball at 4, people always made comments about my size," said Robinson, 21, who also excelled at football at Jesuit and received scholarships from Duke, UCF and other schools to play both sports.
"They knew I was good, but they'd say my size would prohibit me from moving on to any upper level baseball. It's me wanting to prove everybody wrong and show them I can play college baseball with the best of them and one day I'm going to be playing major-league baseball with the best of them. That's the goal I've set."
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The trick for Robinson is to avoid the trap of trying too hard to duplicate his 2005 numbers or, for that matter, live up to his MVP 2006 NCAA Baseball video game body double.
That's easier said than done.
"Sometimes, when you have a year like he had, you forget what made you that good," Martin cautioned. "That's what he and I have talked about some; "Don't forget what your role is with this team.' "
He expects Robinson to get on base, perhaps drawing more walks (he had a team-high 57 last year, but 36 came in the last 35 games as he began seeing more curveballs and changeups), steal bases and be the offensive catalyst.
Leave the power to others.
"I've seen good players try to do too much or do what they're not used to doing, not playing like they've always played," Robinson said.
He and Miami junior outfielder Jon Jay, with whom he struck up a close friendship during the national team experience, have compared notes on clearing a bar that's set ridiculously high.
"We've talked about having the same mind frame as last year and going out there and keep working," Jay said. "And not relaxing."
Not for an inning. Not for a day.
"Last year was a great year and everything went my way," Robinson said. "This is the year where things are going to be tough on me. Everybody's going to be gunning for me. But it's the kind of situation I love to be in. I love to be in pressure situations. If you don't love that, you shouldn't play this sport."