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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. 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] 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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....

    Side by side racing as cars make their way into turn 10 during the first few laps of the IndyCar race at the Firestone Grand Prix of St.Petersburg on Sunday (03/29/15).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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....

    SP_320560_SHAD_GRANDPRIX_20 (03/27/10 St. Petersburg) IndyCar driver Will Power, with Verizon Team Penske, smiles while being interviewed after climbing from his car as he wins the pole position during qualifying at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Saturday afternoon (03/27/10). [DIRK SHADD, Times]
  8. 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]
  9. 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]
  10. 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....

    RC Enerson of New Port Richey celebrates winning the USF2000 race last year in St. Petersburg.
  11. 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.
  12. Mock Draft Monday: Jameis Winston one?


    I've looked all across the Internet to try to find a reputable mock draft by a respected writer that has the Bucs picking someone other than Jameis Winston with the No. 1 overall pick.

    I've got nothing.

    Things could change of course, there's still 38 days until the NFL draft. Winston hasn't even had his pro day yet. But, to state the obvious, the pundits are sure Winston is the guy....

    Jameis Winston hasn't even had his pro day yet. But, to state the obvious, the pundits are sure Winston is the guy for the Bucs.
  13. Rays' Steven Souza Jr. okay after awkward catch

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays had a scare Friday when an awkward dive by RF Steven Souza Jr. could have lengthened their growing injury list.

    The club's top prospect had a precautionary MRI exam after leaving the 11-5 loss to the Blue Jays with right forearm tightness. The exam showed no damage, the Rays said, and Souza was not expected to miss significant action.

    "We're being cautious with it, and we're having him checked out," manager Kevin Cash said....

    Rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. checks his right arm after a catch as Brandon Guyer checks on him.
  14. Rays: A Make-A-Wish fan visits

    The Heater

    Make a wish

    The Rays welcomed 16-year-old fan Jonathan Cook as a special guest Friday. He had a locker in the clubhouse, took batting practice and threw the ceremonial first pitch. Cook, who was born in Tampa but lives in Virginia, is in remission from cancer and joined the Rays through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. "It's crazy to be out on this field," Cook said. "It was really fun to be around all these guys."...

  15. MRI shows no issues for Rays' Steven Souza Jr.