ST. LOUIS — Shane Robinson isn't much for small talk.
The Tampa native and Jesuit High graduate has done enough big things in his career to get to this point as a key member of the Cardinals' World Series outfield rotation. And yet, much to his dismay, the primary topic of discussion tends to be about what he's lacking, specifically inches and pounds on a frame he generously describes as 5 feet 9, 165 pounds.
"I've always been self-driven growing up, always that chip-on-the-shoulder-type mind-set," Robinson, 28, said Friday in the Busch Stadium clubhouse. "Each level that I've jumped up, from Little League to high school to college to the minor leagues and to the majors, I've been able to step my game up a little more at each level and be successful at all of them.
"So this is something I've always wanted. I didn't accept that being the 'little guy' was an excuse. I actually kind of hate it when people bring it up. It gets old. It's like, 'Can you come up with something else?' … But it is what it is. I'm never going to be a 'big guy,' so I've accepted it. And I think it's helped me a little bit, driving me, hearing all the negative stuff about not being big enough or whatnot to play at this level."
That's always been the case, even when former Jesuit coach John Crumbley saw Robinson dominating on an American Legion team as an eighth-grader.
"He hit like .680, and he didn't strike out until our last game, his 68th at-bat," Crumbley said. "I knew right then he was going to be successful."
Robinson hit leadoff and played centerfield as a freshman for Jesuit's 2000 state championship team, lettering for four years. Then he went to Florida State for a record-setting career that included a 40-game hitting streak and the 2005 national player of the year award.
And yet he might have been a better football player.
That's what Robert Weiner, the current Plant High coach who was a Jesuit assistant in both sports, said, noting Robinson's fearlessness and aggressiveness. Robinson on Friday agreed, laughing about a recent opportunity to be on the sideline for a Rams NFL game: "I felt like I could go out there and do something."
Weiner said he, too, knew Robinson was destined for success and uses him as an example when he talks to his current teams.
"Shane's of legendary status to most of us," Weiner said. "He's the ultimate story of the kid who everyone told him he wouldn't make it. People told him he wouldn't make it at Jesuit, that it's a big-time baseball and football program and he's too small. They told him he wouldn't make it at FSU. They told him he'd never play in the major leagues."
Robinson was a fifth-round pick by the Cardinals in 2006 and made it to the majors, albeit briefly, in 2009. His next two seasons at Triple A were cut short by injury: a dislocated shoulder in 2010, a fractured cheek bone from an outfield collision in 2011.
Robinson knew his career path was now uncertain, but he said it was "more of a humbling experience than anything," making him more appreciative of the opportunity.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said the second injury seemed to be a needed wakeup call.
"He seemed to be not growing in the game; I think he was at a stagnant point," Mozeliak said. "After that injury he came back and he was rehabbing and all of a sudden a light turned on for him. … He just seemed to be a different player."
Robinson spent most of 2012 with the Cardinals and all of this season, save for a short disabled list stint, and has been a key part of their success, starting Game 1 of the Series.
His Cardinals teammates couldn't be more impressed, raving not only about what he has done but how he has done it.
"His whole life he's played with that prove-you-wrong mentality. When you do that, you've got that little extra edge," pitcher Adam Wainwright said. "And he's got crazy ability for how small he is."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]om. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.