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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. SI ranks Quinton Flowers on top 100, above Deondre Francois


    Sports Illustrated's ongoing countdown of the top 100 players in college football includes some high praise for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers.

    Flowers came in at No. 53 on the list. That's ahead of other notable quarterbacks like Ohio State's J.T. Barrett and Alabama's Jalen Hurts.

    SI writes: "The senior could lead the Bulls to a New Year's Six Bowl berth (and, with some luck, an undefeated record) while making a run at an invitation to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony."...

  2. Illinois is recruiting a 10-year-old. Where will Lovie Smith be by the time the kid can sign?


    Today in ridiculous recruiting news, Lovie Smith's Illinois football team offered a scholarship to a 10-year-old.

    That's ten years old. As in, he has been on this earth for a decade. He is the same age as Ryder, the boy in the TV show Paw Patrol, which the young man might very well watch when he isn't earning scholarship offers from a Big Ten program. Because he's 10 (ten) years old....

  3. Deon Cain, Duke Dawson, Derrick Nnadi among SI's top 100 players


    Sports Illustrated's countdown of the top 100 players in college football continues with three more local players.

    Florida Gators defensive back Duke Dawson came in at No. 72 - ahead of Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (among others). Dawson should be UF's top player in the secondary, with Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson and Marcus Maye all in the NFL....

  4. NBA draft: Jonathan Isaac could make FSU history tonight


    Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac will probably hear his name called early in tonight's NBA draft.

    Maybe historically early, at least by Seminoles standards.

    SI projects him to go third overall to the Celtics. ESPN calls him the draft's No. 5 prospect and headed to Orlando with the No. 6 pick. CBS suggests No. 7 to Minnesota....

  5. Should tackle football be banned until high school?


    Warren Sapp announced Tuesday that he will donate his brain to concussion researchers after his death.

    Beyond the headline, Sapp said something else interesting: He wants to eliminate tackle football until high school.

    That idea is one that came up in conversations during our recent reporting for this story on the flag/tackle debate in youth football. The group Practice like Pros proposes keeping tackle football in high school but not until then. Middle schoolers would begin learning how to play tackle through weight training, neck strengthening and limited contact so they're prepared once they reach ninth grade....

  6. Malik Zaire officially announces he's joining Florida Gators


    It's still not officially official, but it's slightly officialer than it was yesterday.

    Malik Zaire is joining the Florida Gators, as he announced Tuesday afternoon.

  7. With Will Grier eligible at West Virginia, what might have been at Florida?


    Former Florida Gators quarterback Will Grier will be eligible to start the season for West Virginia, the Mountaineers announced today.

    Grier transferred to West Virginia after earning a one-year suspension for failing an NCAA drug test at UF. He missed the final six regular-season games at UF in 2015, and the NCAA allows him to serve the rest of his suspension while sitting out, anyway, because of its transfer rules....

  8. Deondre Francois, Eddy Pineiro among SI's top 100 players


    Sports Illustrated is counting down its list of the top 100 players in college football, and the first installment features three from the state.

    Florida Gators kicker Eddy Pineiro is No. 100. Yes, he's a kicker, but he's also a darn good one.

    The player in front of Pineiro is even more intriguing - Florida State running back Cam Akers. The next snap he plays will be his first, but his performance in the spring game showed he's worthy of being compared to Dalvin Cook, the player he is trying to replace....

  9. How far might Clemson slide without Deshaun Watson?


    The AP's Ralph D. Russo summed up one of the reasons why I'm picking Florida State to win the ACC this year:

  10. Florida Gators' Jim McElwain, Mike White earn raises, contract extensions


    Florida Gators football coach Jim McElwain and men's basketball coach Mike White both received raises and one-year contract extensions to 2023, the school announced Friday.

    McElwain receives a $196,300 raise for this season. The six years left on his contract will pay him an average of $4.486 million. That figure is up from $4.1645 and would have ranked 12th in the country last season (just ahead of Clemson's Dabo Swinney), according to USA Today's database....

  11. Detroit Tigers draft Alonso alum Alex Faedo 18th overall


    When Alex Faedo was coming out of Alonso High in 2014, the Tigers drafted him in the 40th round and pick No. 1,210.

    Three years later, Faedo is a Detroit draftee again after the Tigers selected the University of Florida pitcher Monday night with the No. 18 pick in the June amateur draft.

    He was the first of three locals to go in the first round — the second time Tampa Bay high schools produced that many in the past three seasons. College of Central Florida pitcher Nate Pearson (Bishop McLaughlin) went to Toronto at No. 28, and USF shortstop Kevin Merrell (Steinbrenner High) was the No. 33 pick to Oakland....

    Florida Gators pitcher Alex Faedo (21) takes the mound for the Gators during the Super Regional against Wake Forest during an NCAA college baseball Super Regional game against Wake Forest in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, June 10, 2017. (Cyndi Chambers/Star-Banner via AP) FLOCA602
  12. Tampa Bay: A major-league baseball breeding ground

    The Heater

    A baseball breeding ground

    If likely first-round pick Alex Faedo eventually reaches the majors, he will join a long list of big-leaguers from one of the most fertile baseball grounds in the country. Tampa Bay ranks 20th among the nation's top 100 metro areas in producing big-leaguers, relative to population, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis. The area had 12 players start the season on teams' 40-man rosters (or the MLB disabled list). Here's a look at the top 20: ...

    Florida starting pitcher Alex Faedo (21) throws against South Florida  during an NCAA college baseball tournament regional game Saturday, June 3, 2017, in Gainesville, Fla. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP) FLGAI325
  13. UCF kicker: I must choose between NCAA football and YouTube videos


    A UCF kicker says NCAA rules are forcing him to choose between playing football and making YouTube videos.

    The kickoff specialist, Donald De La Haye, explained his predicament in a video he posted over the weekend on his channel, which has more than 53,000 subscribers.

    "Some people upstairs aren't happy with my videos, and they feel like I'm violating NCAA rules..." he said in his video (which you can see at the bottom of this post). "I guess I can't make any videos that make it obvious that I'm a student-athlete, because that makes it seem like I'm using my likeness and my image to make money and all this, which I'm really not."...

  14. Ole Miss booster strikes back with defamation lawsuit


    The ongoing Ole Miss NCAA case just got more interesting, thanks to a lawsuit recently filed by an Oxford clothing store, Rebel Rags.

    Sports Illustrated has a good summary of the suit: The NCAA case includes allegations that two players at rival Mississippi State and a family member of former Rebel Laremy Tunsil received $2,800 in merchandise from the store. The store says that's false, so it's suing for defamation....