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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


Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. Commentary: The town always ready to welcome Tony Stewart home

    Auto racing

    There's a story my high school English teacher used to share about the headstrong boy in the back of the class.

    They were studying one of the classics, and the boy didn't understand why he had to bother with it. He didn't need books; he was going to become a famous race car driver.

    My teacher never mentioned his old student's name, and he never needed to. When you grow up in the hometown of Tony Stewart, the shadow of the three-time NASCAR champion is impossible to ignore....

    Tony Stewart, a three-time NASCAR champion who is retiring after this season, still has a house in his hometown of Columbus, Ind.
  2. FSU football announces kickoff for spring game


    Kickoff for Florida State's spring game will be at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 9, the Seminoles announced Friday.

    The game will be played at Orlando's Citrus Bowl because of renovations to Doak Campbell Stadium. The Noles will open spring practice on March 16. 

    Admission will be $5. More information on the game and related festivities is available here. ...

  3. LSU Tigers becoming political football


    One of Florida's SEC rivals is becoming a political football in its home state.

    Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned his state that if it doesn't accept some tax hikes to balance the budget, the state's universities could be in trouble. Yes, that includes the LSU Tigers.

    "If you are a student attending one of these universities, it means that you will receive a grade of incomplete, many students will not be able to graduate and student athletes across the state at those schools will be ineligible to play next semester," Edwards said. "That means you can say farewell to college football next fall."...

  4. Miami running back Walter Tucker leaving Hurricanes football team


    Miami RB Walter Tucker is leaving the program to "pursue other collegiate opportunities," the Hurricanes announced Thursday.

    Tucker, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound senior, was a contributor on special teams and appeared in 10 games last season. He totaled four carries for five yards over the past two seasons.

    "Walter and I spoke yesterday and he felt like he would have a better opportunity to finish his college football career and education at another university," coach Mark Richt in UM's statement. "I wish him the very best."...

  5. Vernon Hargreaves, Jalen Ramsey, Eric Striker among NFL combine participants


    The NFL released its list of participants for this month's scouting combine. The locals are....

    Florida: CB Vernon Hargreaves III (Wharton High), DT Jonathan Bullard, DE Alex McCalister, TE Jake McGee, LB Antonio Morrison, S Keanu Neal, WR Demarcus Robinson, RB Kelvin Taylor

    Florida State: K Roberto Aguayo, SS Lamarcus Brutus, DT Nile Lawrence-Stample, DE Giorgio Newberry, CB Jalen Ramsey, ILB Terrance Smith...

  6. UCF football schedule announced


    The American Athletic Conference unveiled its 2016 football schedule Tuesday morning. Here's the full slate for UCF. All games are on Saturday unless otherwise noted, and kickoff times will be announced later.

    Sept. 3: vs. South Carolina State
    Sept. 10: at Michigan
    Sept. 17: vs. Maryland
    Sept. 24: at Florida International
    Oct. 1: at East Carolina
    Oct. 7 (Friday): vs. Tulane
    Oct. 15: vs. Temple
    Oct. 22: at UConn
    Oct. 29: at Houston
    Nov. 5: OFF
    Nov. 12: vs. Cincinnati
    Nov. 19: vs. Tulsa
    Nov. 26: at USF...

  7. Mock Draft Monday: Vernon Hargreaves headed back to Tampa?


    With the NFL draft order set, it's time to bring back last year's thrilling recurring feature...Mock Draft Monday! There's no Jameis Winston-Marcus Mariota debate, but this year's field includes a few key players from state colleges and, of course, the Bucs' No. 9 overall pick.

    As a reminder, I'll search the web for the most notable mock drafts and share some of the themes. It might not be a weekly feature at first -- the draft is still more than two months away -- but it will be as the draft approaches....

  8. Lightning tops Penguins

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — If any concern still lingered over the slow season start by Lightning center Tyler Johnson, it disappeared in Friday night's 6-3 win over the Penguins.

    The 2015 All-Star followed up a strong performance Wednesday against the Red Wings with his first multipoint game since November, scoring once and adding two assists to help Tampa Bay earn its 10th win in its past 11 games.

    "I think he's kind of coming into his own," wing Alex Killorn said....

    Penguins defenseman Kris Letang provides a screen of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury as Anton Stralman scores in the first.
  9. Miami Hurricanes announce spring football schedule


    Miami will begin its first spring football practice under new coach Mark Richt on March 15 and end it with a spring game on April 16 at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

    The schedule includes a public scrimmage on April 9 at West Palm Beach's Oxbridge Academy.

    The free spring game will be at 2 p.m. one week later and will be aired live on ESPN3.


  10. Recruiting analyst talks Florida Gators, FSU football classes


    Before we all move on from national signing day, my colleague, Joey Knight, caught up with Scout national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn to get a little more insight on how the Gators and Seminoles fared.

    Dohn called Florida losing four-star DL Shavar Manuel (formerly of Blake High) to Florida State one of the biggest surprises of a day that wasn't great for UF.

    "In recruiting you have ups and downs, and today was not a great day for them," Dohn said. "I think you miss out on (DE Brian) Burns, you miss out on (OL John) Simpson...but the bigger issue is, you lose Shavar Manuel and you lose Aaron Robinson... You just wanted to see a little bit more out of the Gators."...

  11. UF hires Virginia Tech's Torrian Gray as defensive backs coach


    One day after national signing day, Florida landed another big addition to its team.

    The Gators named Lakeland native Torrian Gray their new defensive backs coach Thursday.

    Gray, a graduate of Lakeland's Kathleen High, spent a decade in that role at Virginia Tech, where he coached five All-America players. The Hokies' pass defense allowed an average 185 yards per game and held opponents to a 106.5 passer rating during his tenure. Both figures were second in the nation in that span....

  12. Torrian Gray announced as Florida Gators' new defensive backs coach


    Florida officially named Lakeland native Torrian Gray the team's new defensive back coach Thursday night.

    "We're excited to have Torrian join the Gator family," coach Jim McElwain said in a statement.

    Gray spent a decade in the same role at Virginia Tech, where he coached five All-America players. The Hokies' pass defense allowed only 185 yards per game and held opponents to a 106.5 passer rating during his tenure; both figures were second in the nation in that span, according to UF....

  13. Virginia Tech confirms Torrian Gray is Florida?


    Florida still hasn't announced the news, but it certainly looks like the Gators will be hiring Torrian Gray as their new defensive backs coach.

    Gray's former school, Virginia Tech, confirmed Thursday that Gray resigned "to pursue another opportunity in his home state of Florida."

    The Twitter bio of the Lakeland native now includes this: "University of Florida Defensive Back Coach. #DBU."...

  14. How FSU recruits other schools' oral commitments


    One of Wednesday's biggest national signing day stories came from former Blake High DL Shavar Manuel, who flipped from Florida to Florida State.

    Maybe flipped isn't quite the right word, according to the Orlando Sentinel....

    Former Blake High defensive lineman Shavar Manuel flipped from Florida to Florida State.
  15. National signing day: What recruiting classes tell us about college football's next national champion


    Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State and LSU had many reasons to celebrate the strong recruiting classes they landed Wednesday on national signing day. If history is any indication, there's a decent chance they'll be playing in Raymond James Stadium for next season's national title game....

    Jimbo Fisher and Florida State has reeled in four top-four classes in the last five seasons.