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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. FSU is No. 8, Gators and Canes unranked in coaches' poll

    Blog

    Florida State will start the season ranked eighth in the country in the USA Today coaches poll. The Seminoles, coming off of their run to the inaugural four-team playoff, are the only state team in the top 25, which was released Thursday morning.

    Miami received 16 votes, Florida received two and UCF received one. It's the second consecutive year the Gators begin the season unranked in the poll....

    Defensive back Jalen Ramsey and Florida State will start the season ranked eighth in the country in the USA Today coaches poll.
  2. Tampa named one of five finalists for 2018 world junior hockey championship

    Blog

    Tampa is one of five finalists to host the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, USA Hockey announced Tuesday.

    The other finalists are Chicago, Buffalo, St. Louis and Pittsburgh.

    More than 300,000 fans attended this year's tournament in Canada to watch the world's top players under 20. Tampa has experience hosting other big tournaments; the NCAA's Frozen Four is coming to Amalie Arena for the second time in April....

    Brett Connolly of Canada and Miro Hovinen of Finland battle for the puck during the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships in Calgary, Alberta.
  3. Jameis Winston effect? Prices rising for secondary Bucs tickets

    Blog

    Whether it’s the addition of No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston or something else, there appears to be a growing demand for Bucs tickets.

    This time last year, the Bucs’ secondary tickets had a median price of $104, according to Vivid Seats, a secondary ticket marketplace. The average price was 27th in the league....

    Whether it’s the addition of No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston or something else, there appears to be a growing demand for Bucs tickets.
  4. Lightning lands eight games on NBC Sports schedule

    Blog

    The Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup final will pay off with eight nationally televised games, NBC announced Monday.

    The list of games to be shown on NBC or NBCSN includes two Lightning-Rangers games in a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference final, at Amalie Arena on Dec. 30 and at New York on April 5.

    The other nationally televised games: At Detroit (Oct. 13), at St. Louis (Oct. 27), vs. Buffalo (Nov. 10), at Colorado (Jan. 12), vs. Detroit (Feb. 3) and at Boston (Feb. 28)....

    The list of games to be shown on NBC or NBCSN includes two Lightning-Rangers games in a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference final.
  5. Where do Gators, FSU and Miami rank among top 100 teams ever?

    Blog

    Only three college football teams in state history rank among the top 100 of all time.

    That's a surprising takeaway (for me) from Sports on Earth's list, published earlier this month. The site used a mountain of data to come up with a 100 percent objective set of rankings. The numbers aren't perfect, as author Matt Brown acknowledges, but they make for fun fodder until fall practice starts. I'm still trying to figure out how Northwestern has as many teams on its own (all before the Truman administration, mind you) as the entire state, but I digress....

    The Gators' 2008 national championship squad ranked No. 64 among the top 100 college football teams ever.
  6. Bucs QB Jameis Winston talks football at Rays game

    Bucs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Even surrounded by his other beloved sport, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston was thinking about preparing for his first season of professional football.

    "I'm anxious," Winston said Sunday afternoon. "I'm just looking forward to getting it started."

    That will happen today, when Winston and the other rookies are scheduled to report to training camp. Winston said he had a productive offseason, and he's more focused on improving every day than thinking about the NFL's history of rookie struggles or whether the starting job is his to lose....

    Jameis Winston and his former coach, Jimbo Fisher, share a laugh after a ceremonial first pitch.
  7. Rays' Steven Souza Jr. frustrated by slump

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Although rookie RF Steven Souza Jr. still can't feel the right pinky he lacerated earlier this month, he insists that has nothing to do with his struggles at the plate.

    "I just need to play better and figure out a way to be not just a productive big-league player but a big-league player that can play at a high level," Souza said.

    Since returning from the disabled list, Souza is 2-for-19 after Sunday's 0-for-3 performance. He credited Orioles LHP Wei-Yin Chen for making a great 3-and-2 pitch that froze him with the bases loaded in the fifth....

    Steven Souza Jr. is 2-for-19 since returning from the DL from a pinky injury.
  8. Rays-Tigers preview

    Sports

    Rays vs. Tigers

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tickets: $7-$200, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within five hours of game time.

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Nathan Karns (5-5, 3.47)

    TIGERS: RH Anibal Sanchez (10-7, 4.59)...

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Nathan Karns #51 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a photo on photo day at Charlotte Sports Park on February 27, 2015 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  9. Matt Moore struggles again as Rays lose to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Starter Matt Moore was staring at his locker with his hands on his head after the Rays' 5-2 loss to Baltimore when reliever Kevin Jepsen walked over to give a fist bump of encouragement.

    Then Jepsen shrugged. There wasn't much else to offer Sunday after the Rays lost for the 21st time in their past 30 games, dropping eight of their past nine series as Friday's trade deadline approaches....

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and Florida State University head football coach Jimbo Fisher after throwing the first pitch before the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 26, 2015.
  10. Jameis Winston 'anxious' as Bucs training camp nears

    Blog

    Five days before the Bucs' full roster reports for training camp, rookie quarterback Jameis Winston said he's ready to get going.

    "I'm anxious," Winston said Sunday afternoon. "I'm just looking forward to getting it started."

    Winston, the No. 1 overall pick, was at Tropicana Field for the Rays' Florida State-themed Chop at the Trop. The Seminoles' Heisman Trophy winner caught the ceremonial first pitch from FSU coach Jimbo Fisher....

  11. For starters, Rays vs. Orioles with a Jimbo Fisher cameo

    Blog

    UPDATE, 12:49: It really is a Florida State day at the Trop. Football coach Jimbo Fisher will throw out the ceremonial first pitch in a few minutes...to 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and Bucs rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. 

    In Rays news, SS Asdrubal Cabrera and OF Desmond Jennings continued to do work before the game. Cabrera said he expects to return to the Rays sometime during the upcoming series against the Tigers....

  12. Drew Smyly gets closer to returning for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Drew Smyly (torn left labrum) could be nearing a return to the Rays' rotation.

    The 26-year-old is scheduled to begin his rehabilitation assignment tonight for Triple-A Durham at Norfolk (Orioles). Smyly is scheduled to throw three innings, or about 45 pitches, in his first game since May 5.

    While the news is undoubtedly good, especially considering how bleak things seemed two months ago, it's still unclear when the Rays might activate Smyly from the disabled list. He will return to Tropicana Field after tonight's start, but the Rays aren't putting a timetable on his return to the roster....

    Drew Smyly has been out since May with a torn left labrum. The left-hander is scheduled for a rehabilitation start tonight for Triple-A Durham, with a limit of about 45 pitches.
  13. Rays vs. Orioles Sunday preview

    The Heater

    Rays vs. Orioles

    When/where: 1:10 today; Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tickets: $7-$275, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within five hours of game time.

    Promotion: Surprise Christmas in July present

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: LH Matt Moore (1-1, 7.23)...

    SARASOTA, FL - MARCH 01:  Wei-Yin Chen #16 of the Baltimore Orioles poses on photo day at Ed Smith Stadium on March 1, 2015 in Sarasota, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  14. One swing enough to doom Rays against Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Any momentum from the Rays' much-needed comeback win Friday night disappeared less than 24 hours later with one dreadful inning.

    Orioles slugger Chris Davis crushed a grand slam off Erasmo Ramirez that doomed the Rays in their 5-1 loss Saturday night at Tropicana Field.

    "Any time you give up a grand slam," catcher Curt Casali said, "it's tough to come back from that."...

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) hangs his head after giving up a grand slam to Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis (19) in the third inning of the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, July 24, 2015.
  15. Drew Smyly to start rehab assignment Sunday for Durham Bulls

    Blog

    LHP Drew Smyly is getting closer to a return to the Rays' rotation.

    He is leaving for Norfolk today to start his rehab assignment tomorrow for Triple-A Durham as he returns from a torn left labrum. Smyly, who hasn't pitched in a game since May 5, will be scheduled for about 45 pitches or three innings.

    "Get him up and down a couple times - that's kind of the priority," manager Kevin Cash said....