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Full Version: 'He's a no-nonsense leader'
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Quote:By Steve Ellis
Tallahassee Democrat


Mike Martin wasn't certain he wanted to entrust the catcher position to Aaron Cheesman - much less the leadership role for the Florida State baseball team.

But Cheesman quickly changed his coach's opinion a year ago. Cheesman delivered at the plate, behind it, and just as importantly in the dugout and clubhouse. On a team that featured marquee players Stephen Drew and Eddy Martinez-Esteve, Cheesman still became the undisputed team leader.

"Aaron, when he came in, was a guy we looked at as a backup most of the time he was going to be here," Martin said. "In all honesty, two years ago we recruited (Raul) Rodriguez to come in and catch for us last year.  We gave this kid every opportunity to win the job. Cheesman would not allow that to happen."

After working behind All-America catcher Tony Richie, Cheesman improved his batting average last season to .347, up 63 points from his sophomore season. He nearly tripled his hits and doubles in 2004 and proved to be reliable in the clutch. He also picked off 18 base runners.

"And his leadership was just beautiful," Martin said. "When he was established after 15, 20 games, he took the club over."

This is again Cheesman's team.

"No question," Martin said. "He is one of the reasons that I feel, if we can just get our feet on the ground, good things can be in our future."

Cheesman embraces the role.

"People may feel it's added pressure, but I think anybody who is competitive has got to want some kind of responsibility on his shoulders," Cheesman said.

Left out of Baseball America's top 25 poll for just the third time since its inception in 1981, the Seminoles are facing another rebuilding year.  With three newcomers starting in the infield and plenty of young pitchers, this team's final destination will depend greatly on the FSU finance graduate.

Cheesman brings smarts and discipline - qualities that he parlayed into success off the field, as well. He earned his undergraduate degree in business last spring and is now pursuing a master's degree in sports management. And Cheesman has set more academic goals. FSU has nominated him for an NCAA post-graduate scholarship that he could use to earn his MBA degree from FSU.

"He knows what he wants to do, and he knows what he has to do to achieve it," said Amy Lord, academic counselor for baseball. "A hard worker and communicates very well."

Cheesman's communication skills will come in especially handy this season.  Two newcomers will be in the starting rotation this weekend, and other newcomers will see action out of the bullpen. He must also be the voice of reason for two pitchers - Hunter Jones and Glenn Simon - who are returning from surgery.

"He's a no-nonsense leader," FSU associate head coach Jamey Shouppe said. "The guys respect him. He's very confident in his ability. He's a very intelligent guy. He's a factor in making the difference in us getting the most out of this year with the experience he brings. We have a pitching staff which is somewhat experienced; you got a catcher who can work in bringing them along."

But what Shouppe especially likes about Cheesman is the respect he shows FSU pitchers. He doesn't chew them out during visits to the mound but still delivers his message.

"He does a lot of that in the dugout, where it's not in front of all the fans," Shouppe said. "He'll sit down with a pitcher and just say, 'It ain't going to happen.' You got to have that in a catcher."

Even position players rely on Cheesman. Freshman shortstop Nick Francis said Cheesman gets credit for keeping Francis focused and confident while adapting to major college baseball. Cheesman knows patience will be a key this season.

"Definitely, there are going to be some ups and downs until some of their feet get wet," Cheesman said. "We have some scrappy players. I think in the long run we'll be just fine."
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