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Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer

Matt Baker

Matt Baker joined the Times as a sports reporter in 2011. In 2014, he started covering the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. He previously covered high school and college sports for the Tulsa World and minor league baseball for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing series and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is a Hoosier native and graduated from Northwestern University in 2008.

Phone: (727) 420-9087

Email: mbaker@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

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  1. Ryan Hunter-Reay running strong as he seeks a second Indianapolis 500 title

    Auto racing

    Ryan Hunter-Reay isn't a big jewelry fan.

    He makes an exception, though, for the checkered ring on his left hand — a regular reminder of his career-defining victory at the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

    "I have a lot of pride in that thing, that's for sure," Hunter-Reay said. "It's not just about the victory. It's the path to get there, right?"

    And now it's about the path to get back. The 36-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident should be a contender today to chug the celebratory milk in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500....

    Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won Indy in 2014, is a contender for a second title in today’s 101st running. He qualified 10th, had the third-fastest practice lap and his team is looking strong.
  2. What to watch for in Sunday's Indianapolis 500

    Auto racing

    Three things to know about today's 101st running of the Indianapolis 500:

    1 One of the field's top drivers is a rookie. Fernando Alonso has two Formula One championships and 32 victories. But the 35-year-old Spaniard chose to skip one of that premier series' marquee events, the Monaco Grand Prix, to try to win one of racing's other crown jewels. His talent, team (the top-tier Andretti Autosport) and car (he qualified fifth) make him a legitimate contender. "For someone that's never been on an oval before, I'm very impressed with Alonso," said Ryan Hunter-Reay, an Andretti teammate. "He definitely surprised me a few times."...

    Will Power, of Australia, sits in the cockpit of his car during a practice session for the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Friday, May 19, 2017 in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) NAA107
  3. Kickoff times announced for Florida-Michigan, FSU-Alabama

    Blog

    College football's blockbuster Sept. 2 season openers finally have kickoff times.

    The Florida Gators will play Michigan at 3:30 on ABC, ESPN announced Thursday afternoon. That game will be in Arlington, Texas.

    That same day, Florida State will play Alabama at 8 p.m. on ABC in Atlanta.

    Two weeks later, the Seminoles have another 8 p.m. ABC telecast when they host Miami.

    Other kickoff times will be announced as the games get closer....

  4. Florida Gators to host South Alabama in 2020

    Blog

    The Florida Gators will host South Alabama in 2020, UF announced Thursday morning.

    The Jaguars play in the Sun Belt and finished 6-7 last year (with a 21-20 win at Mississippi State).

    The game is scheduled for Sept. 19. UF also has non-conference games that year against Eastern Washington - coach Jim McElwain's alma mater - and rival Florida State....

  5. FSU, Gators, USF and Miami all in Athlon preseason top 25

    Blog

    The college football preseason magazines are trickling in, as our Joey Knight wrote earlier.

    Athlon formally unveiled its top 25 Monday.

    Florida State is No. 3, behind Week 1 opponent Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State. The site writes: Florida State will be tested right away with a matchup against Alabama in Atlanta to open the season. The Seminoles host Miami, NC State and Louisville in key conference games, but a matchup at Clemson and a road date at Florida will determine whether or not Fisher's team can finish in the top four....

  6. Florida coach Jim McElwain: Tampa Bay area key for Gators

    College

    CLEARWATER — Before speaking to the Pinellas County Gator Club on Thursday night, Florida football coach Jim McElwain had a Q&A session with reporters. Three quick hits:

    1. The Malik Zaire rumors are swirling but not in the quarterback room. If the SEC changes its graduate transfer policy in two weeks at its spring meetings , the Gators could be in the mix to land Zaire, a former quarterback at Notre Dame. He would be eligible immediately and expected to battle Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and Luke Del Rio for the starting job. McElwain said his quarterbacks haven't asked him about Zaire or the speculation. "And yet everybody on our team knows we're going to continue to do whatever we can to get good players in here, at whatever positions they are," McElwain said. "Here's the beauty of it: When you've got competition at positions, then you've got a pretty good team." ...

    UF coach Jim McElwain signed four bay area players last year after none in 2016.
  7. Florida Gators WR Antonio Callaway cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession

    College

    Florida star receiver Antonio Callaway's up-and-down career took another off-the-field hit with a misdemeanor marijuana possession citation early Saturday morning.

    The Gainesville Police Department said it stopped a black Mercedes SUV for a seat belt violation just before 1 a.m. An officer smelled marijuana and found seven grams of the drug in Callaway's pocket, according to court documents filed Wednesday. ...

    Florida Gators wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) high-fives fans while taking the field for warmups before a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.
  8. Jim McElwain 'disappointed' in Antonio Callaway news, won't address status for Michigan opener

    Blog

    CLEARWATER - Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain said he was disappointed in Thursday's news that receiver Antonio Callaway was cited on a complaint of marijuana possession, but McElwain would not specifically address Callaway's status for the Sept. 2 season opener against Michigan....

  9. Florida Gators star Antonio Callaway cited for marijuana possession

    Blog

    Florida Gators receiver Antonio Callaway has been cited on a complaint of marijuana possession, according to Alachua County court records.

    The Gainesville Police Department stopped a Merecedes SUV at 12:50 a.m. Saturday for a seatbelt violation. Police smelled marijuana and found about 7 grams in Callaway's pocket. Another 5.4 grams of marijuana were found in the car. Both Callaway and 40-year-old Kendrick Williams claimed ownership of the drugs, according to the court documents. Williams has a long criminal history with more than a dozen arrests in the state for complaints ranging from drugs and guns to battery and vehicle theft. ...

  10. Battery complaint dismissed against Cleveland Browns' Caleb Brantley

    College

    The State Attorney's Office dismissed the battery case against Browns rookie and former Gators defensive lineman Caleb Brantley on Wednesday after investigators found "no reliable evidence" to support a complaint that he knocked a woman unconscious last month.

    The decision came after a one-month investigation into an early-morning Gainesville altercation between Brantley and University of Florida student Chelsea Austin....

    Florida Gators defensive lineman Caleb Brantley (57) is seen during warmup before the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, January 2, 2017.
  11. What SEC football coaches think about early signing day

    College

    After years of debate, college football will have its first early signing period with a 72-hour window beginning Dec. 20. SEC coaches still aren't sure how it's going to work in practice. Some excerpts from Monday's post-spring teleconference:

    LSU coach Ed Orgeron: "It's a war out there. Now you have two of them."

    Florida coach Jim McElwain: "It will put some players that have maybe taken reservations rather than commitments places, it's going to call that bluff, as well as a lot of schools that have a lot of offers out. … I truly believe it's going to call some people's bluff, both from the players' side and the schools' side. It'll be interesting to see."...

    Florida’s Jim McElwain, left, on the new early signing period: “I truly believe it’s going to call some people’s bluff.” And Alabama’s Nick Saban: “I think evaluation is important, and I think the sooner you have to make decisions on these guys, the greater opportunity you have to make mistakes.”
  12. Jim McElwain on Florida Gators' offensive line, leadership and more

    Blog

    A few quick nuggets from Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain's appearance on Monday's post-spring SEC teleconference:

    • McElwain is excited about the offensive line - a position of weakness when he arrived in Gainesville. UF loses left tackle David Sharpe to the NFL and center Cam Dillard to North Carolina as a grad transfer, but the other parts return. "This is the best we've been since I've been here at that position..." McElwain said. "It's a group that's going to now be a true strength for the Gators."...

  13. Jim McElwain: On red turf, cheap hotels and more

    Blog

    Even with 2,000 words, I didn't have enough space to share everything I wanted on Jim McElwain's time in the Big Sky Conference. The story posted online this morning and will be in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times. A few things that didn't make the final cut:

    · I mentioned that McElwain donated some money to 2010 fundraiser for new red turf at Eastern Washington. Here's what I didn't include: "Don't sit here and say that I'm excited about the red turf," McElwain said. He hates the red. He's a football purist. But... "If they took a step to do that, it would be really hard for them to drop football." So that's why he gave money for The Inferno....

  14. Jim McElwain: Big Sky to the Big Time

    College

    The pickup truck was in bad enough shape when Jim McElwain bought it.

    The tires didn't match, and water sprayed through the rusted-out floorboards.

    McElwain, then an assistant coach at Eastern Washington University, didn't care about the first part. To fix the second, he took a zip knife to one of the baseball team's old batting circles and used the turf to cover the holes. The splashing stopped....

    Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain smiles as he walks across Steve Spurrier-Florida Field before the game between the Florida Gators and the Missouri Tigers in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Gainesville, Fla.
  15. ACC announces future Notre Dame football games for FSU, Miami

    Blog

    Get your looooong-range calendars out, because the ACC has announced Notre Dame's league games...through 2037. Gotta give my 3-month-old son time to prepare, I suppose. Judging by how active his legs are, he's going to be a great punter. 

    Anyway, Florida State hosts the Fighting Irish in 2026 and 2029. The Seminoles travel to South Bend in 2030, 2032 and 2036.

    Miami hosts Notre Dame in 2032 and 2034 and travels there in 2028, 2031 and 2037....