May 13, 2005
By Jonathan Butnick
Sports Information Student Assistant
An old adage says that baseball is the only sport where an offensive player can fail seven out of ten times and still be considered quite successful. Apparently, somebody forgot to tell sophomore outfielder Shane Robinson. Through 57 games of what has to this point, been a remarkable sophomore campaign, Robinson leads the Seminoles in eight offensive categories, while topping the Atlantic Coast Conference lists in four and ranking in the top five in 10.
“I gained a better understanding of what I needed to do as a leadoff batter,” Robinson admits, “and the coaches explained to me what my role was, so it basically came down to me coming out here on the field and applying it.”
But when looking at his statistics, rather than asking why, it seems like the better question is how? Coming off of an encouraging, but not spectacular freshman season, it would have been impossible to forecast this kind of production from the Tampa native. Unless, like some, you took notice of the performance Robinson turned in during the Seminoles’ march through the ACC Tournament last May, where his efforts were rewarded with tournament MVP honors.
“If you go back and look at his numbers, he got it going pretty good there at the end,” assistant coach Mike Martin Jr. says, “he went from about .245 to.250 to around .280 against the best competition out there [during the conference tournament and the regionals].”
Watching him close out the season with a combined ACC and NCAA tournament batting average of .391, at least a few people knew his sophomore season could be special, including Martin.
“He had a good summer which really helped him as well. He’s a driven kid, and when you’re driven, you’re going to see improvement and I think that’s been the biggest difference in how competitive he is,” he said.
The duo remembers a conversation they had before the season when the coach asked his player what his personal goals were for the season.
“He asked me at the beginning of the season what kind of goals I had for myself, and I said, `well, I want to hit .500 and steal 50 bags,’ and he was like, `alright well let’s get it done then.'” Robinson recalls.
Martin’s recollection of the conversation is a bit different. Although his expectations were indeed raised, he says he was taken aback by the lofty goals laid out by the centerfielder.
“I’ll be honest, I told him, `Shane, that’s a bit much, let’s go .400 and 40.'” Martin says with a grin. But he admits he wasn’t concerned that such goals would become a pressure-filled distraction.
“I think goals are very beneficial to the players, unless they get out of that team concept, but he’ll never get out of that team concept, so I’m not worried.”
Judging by his current .441 batting average and recently snapped school-record, 40-game hit streak, it appears as though Robinson’s 2004 postseason was no fluke and that those small tournament samples did in fact turn out to be great indicators of his 2005 brilliance.
“The ACC tournament last year was where I started this run and the success I had gave me a lot of confidence going into Cape Cod and then into this season,” he says, “I guess that’s kind of what started it and what kind of opened my eyes to what my capabilities were and how I could perform on the field.”
When facing a hitter on this kind of sustained tear, the question many ask is, how does an opposing pitcher go about retiring him? It’s a question several hurlers have struggled with when reading the scouting reports on Florida State this year.
“Looking at a guy like that, he doesn’t have many weaknesses. It’s tough not to make a mistake against him, because even when you make a good pitch he still gets a hit,” says Clemson relief ace Stephen Faris, who currently ranks among the league leaders in ERA, and was able to hold Robinson to a walk and a groundout in their two meetings earlier this month.
Robinson credits a great deal of his success to his participation in the Cape Cod summer league and says that experience had a lot to do with the changes in his game, mentally and physically.
“I think that was a big key for me, going there and playing, facing some of the best pitchers in the nation with a wood bat. It was definitely a confidence booster, and it kind of made me understand what kind of player I am,” he says.
Coming into the season though, on a team filled with newcomers, he also had to acknowledge an interesting role change, knowing that he’d be looked to as a leader on a very young Seminole team. And lead he has, not only hitting first in the batting order, but also assuming a bigger leadership role off the field in only his second season.
“I feel like the seniors like Cheese [senior catcher Aaron Cheesman] don’t look at me as a sophomore, they look at me as one of the guys that has to show all these freshmen what it’s like and what it takes to win. Last year I was really a quiet guy and this year I’m pretty much a leader by example, but I’ll get vocal if I need to,” he says.
With Florida State entering the stretch run of its conference schedule and beginning preparations for the ACC and NCAA Tournaments, which leadership will be critical and could turn out to be the deciding factor in close games.
Robinson says his focus is still centered on consistency and he stands determined to prove that this extended string of success is not just an accident.
“I think being consistent is the main thing that I want to accomplish. I want people to know that I’m not just a blue moon and that I’m not some fluke. I want to maintain that high average, continue to do well in the field, and just stay consistent because I think people expect that from me and I expect that from myself.”
Looking at his past twelve months, it’d be hard to expect anything other than continued success.