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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. Kurt Warner: No question Jameis Winston is top quarterback prospect


    Former star quarterback Kurt Warner raves about Florida State’s Jameis Winston as a player, but he’s not quite sure the Bucs should take him with the No. 1 overall pick in this month’s NFL draft.

    “Strictly from a football standpoint, I don’t think there’s any question (Winston is the top prospect),” Warner said before Winston’s pro day workout Tuesday in Tallahassee. “What I’ve seen and the extent to what I’ve seen, based off the other guys and the limited extent that I’ve seen as far as reading coverages and making certain throws and being asked to really carry a team, I’d put Jameis way ahead of those other guys....

    Former star quarterback Kurt Warner raves about Florida State’s Jameis Winston as a player, but he’s not quite sure the Bucs should take him with the No. 1 overall pick in this month’s NFL draft.
  2. FSU boasts bounty of potential NFL talent


    TALLAHASSEE — On a day where the spotlight was fixed on Florida State QB Jameis Winston, his supporting cast showed why up to four other Seminoles could be taken in the first round of this month's NFL draft.

    "I wanted to go out and compete, and I felt like we all did that," said OL Cameron Erving, who snapped to Winston during a choreographed workout of 100-plus pass plays during pro day at FSU's indoor practice facility....

    Florida State University Quarterback Jameis Winston goes over workout drills with his teammates during his pro day. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  3. Jimbo Fisher: Jameis Winston is the 'whole package'


    TALLAHASSEE – Jimbo Fisher didn’t seem surprised that quarterback Jameis Winston opted to throw 102 passes during Tuesday’s pro day at Florida State, even if that’s double the number some prospects throw.

    “That just shows you, he’s the kid who goes to the park, gets there at 8 in the morning, and leave when the lights are turned off at 9 at night…” Fisher said....

  4. Lovie Smith on Jameis Winston's pro day: 'There was nothing to disappoint you'


    TALLAHASSEE - Jameis Winston’s former coach and his likely future coach both were impressed with his performance during Florida State’s pro day.

    “I think everything was impressive,” said Bucs coach Lovie Smith, whose team is considering taking Winston with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. “Threw the ball well, made all the throws, long workout. There was nothing to disappoint you.”...

  5. Woman in hospital after piece of debris hits her in head at Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

    Auto racing

    A spectator remains hospitalized after a piece of debris flew over the grandstands and fractured her skull during Sunday's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

    The injury happened as the woman, Brigitte Hoffstetter, was walking in the concession area near Turn 10. A piece of carbon fiber from one of the IndyCars flew over the grandstands about 100 yards from the track and struck her in the head, said her husband, Greg Hoffstetter....

    Debris from a section of the newly debuted aero body kit litters the track at Sunday’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. A woman was still in the hospital Monday with a fractured skull after she was struck by a piece of debris that flew off the track during the race. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times] 
  6. Mock Draft Monday: Jameis Winston not unanimous, but it's close


    Thanks to some help on Twitter, I found a reputable mock draft that has the Bucs picking someone other than Jameis Winston at No. 1 overall.

    The San Diego Union-Tribune still projects the Bucs to pick Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Eddie Brown writes that Mariota might have an inside track because of Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s ties with Ducks coach Mark Helfrich....

    Fifteen of 16 mock drafts have the Bucs taking Jameis Winston with the first overall pick in the draft.
  7. Debris on track causes problems at Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

    Auto racing

    ST. PETERSBURG — The season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was only a lap in when fans got a view of a sight they should probably get used to seeing throughout the IndyCar Series season.


    "Amazing the amount of stuff that fell off," runner-up and pole-sitter Will Power said. "Rabbit ears lying all around the track. It was just everywhere, right?"

    The reason for the cars' carnage was because of the aero kits that debuted Sunday....

    “Amazing the amount of stuff that fell off,’’ runner-up Will Power says of debris that is caused by the debut of aero kits. Damage from the debris slows the overall pace and affects steering.
  8. Montoya wins Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

    Auto racing


    After last year's rough debut here and a slow start Sunday in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Juan Pablo Montoya was ready to settle for a solid points day and an incident-free run.

    Two hours later, he was back on the winner's podium at an IndyCar street course for the first time in 16 years.

    The 39-year-old Colombian held off teammate Will Power to lead Team Penske's dominant day by winning the IndyCar series' season opener....

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 
Juan Pablo Montoya wins the Firestone Grand Prix Verizon Indy Car Series of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 29, 2015.
  9. Sebastien Bourdais among 'best of the rest' in St. Petersburg qualifying

    Auto racing

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sebastien Bourdais isn't sure what to make of the fact he was one of only two drivers outside of Team Penske to crack into Saturday's final round of qualifying for today's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

    "It's a bit of a Penske lockout," said Bourdais, a St. Petersburg resident. "We're kind of feeling like the best of the rest here, which in a way makes me feel good and bad. We're going to have to step it up and mix it up with these guys."...

    Racing in the family: Sebastian Wheldon, son of the late Dan Wheldon, watches along with family friend Rob DeMatti.
  10. New IndyCar aero kits present risks and rewards

    Auto racing

    ST. PETERSBURG — A track record that took IndyCar a decade to break lasted only 20 minutes Saturday.

    Will Power's record-breaking qualifying run Saturday probably won't be the only time the IndyCar series tops old speeds thanks to its new aero kits, which will make their formal debut in today's season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

    The 110-lap race will be the first real glimpse of how the new body work by manufacturers Honda and Chevrolet, so it's still unclear how the faster cars will affect strategies when the green flag drops....

    The new noses on the 2015 IndyCars are a quick way to differentiate the cars, at least in their configuration for the St. Petersburg race. At left, the Team Penske Chevrolet driven by Juan Montoya. At right, the Andretti Autosport Honda of Ryan Hunter-Reay.
  11. Pole-sitter Will Power leads Penske 1-2-3-4 in St. Petersburg qualifying

    Auto racing


    Team Penske driver Juan Montoya said he had one takeaway from Friday's first day of practice, when his team had the three quickest cars.

    "That we're not 1-2-3-4," Montoya said.

    They were Saturday.

    Defending race and series champion Will Power set a track record and Penske's cars swept the top four qualifying spots for today's season-opening IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg....

    IndyCar driver Will Power pulls on his gloves as he reaches for his steering wheel in the pit at the start of the qualifying rounds at the Firestone Grand Prix of St.Petersburg on Saturday (03/28/15). Power went on to break the track record and win the pole position.
  12. Montoya aims to start strong at Grand Prix

    Auto racing

    ST. PETERSBURG — Juan Pablo Montoya's return to open-wheel racing started slowly last year.

    The Team Penske driver qualified 18th and finished 15th in the 22-car field at last year's season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

    "I had so much stuff on my plate," said Montoya, who had spent the previous seven years in NASCAR's Sprint Cup series. "I was so overwhelmed with everything going on, figuring out what I needed to do."...

    After a slow start last season, Juan Pablo Montoya won at Pocono and ended the year with three consecutive top-five finishes to finish fourth in points. [Getty Images]
  13. For Ryan Hunter-Reay, racing is the American way

    Auto racing

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Even growing up in the South, Ryan Hunter-Reay never wanted to race against Dale Earnhardt or Bill Elliott.

    He wanted to be the next Andretti or Unser or Rahal, a U.S. star in the melting pot of open-wheel racing.

    "It was always the Americans for me ..." Hunter-Reay said. "I think because it's such an international sport, you root for homegrown talent."

    And now, the homegrown talent is Hunter-Reay....

    Ryan Hunter-Reay celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 last season. [AP photo]
  14. RC Enerson races on fast learning curve to Indy Lights series

    Auto racing

    When racing forced New Port Richey's RC Enerson to miss half of his freshman year of high school, Enerson made what he considered an easy choice. He left Gulf High.

    When he realized that his body was holding him back from climbing racing's ladder toward the IndyCar series, he showed his dedication again. He lost 40 pounds.

    That drive will be on display this weekend in St. Petersburg, when the Tampa Bay native makes his debut in the Indy Lights series — IndyCar's equivalent of Triple-A baseball — at age 18....

    Improved fitness led to a breakout year for RC Enerson in USF2000. He went from two podium finishes in 2013 to five victories  including one in St. Petersburg. [Times files (2014)]
  15. Analytics help new Rays reliever Kevin Jepsen to career year

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Reliever Kevin Jepsen attributes the best season of his career to a change that sounds remarkably simple.

    He started entering games with a plan.

    "It's hard to succeed over the course of a season," Jepsen said, "if you're going out there and winging it."

    Yet that's what Jepsen did for most of his career, and is perhaps why he bounced between the majors and Triple A for most of his first six seasons....

    Reliever Kevin Jepsen says that going to the mound with a plan helped him have the best season of his career last year.