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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. Florida Gators' Jordan Sherit out for the year after hip surgery

    Blog

    Florida Gators defensive lineman Jordan Sherit will miss the rest of the season after undergoing hip surgery earlier this week, coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday morning.

    "It's a bad deal, man," McElwain said.

    The former Hillsborough High standout has had an injury-plagued career. He tore his ACL during his senior season of high school. He missed time late in 2014 because of injury and only played in 10 games last season because of multiple injuries....

  2. Florida Gators, Kevin Knox get preseason SEC basketball honors

    Blog

    After last year's run to the Elite Eight, the Florida Gators are one of the favorites in the SEC.

    UF is picked to finish second in the league, according to a panel of college basketball media members.

    Kentucky, of course, is projected to win the conference.

    Guard KeVaughn Allen is UF's lone individual honoree; he's first-team pick to the all-SEC team.

    Wildcats freshman Kevin Knox - a former star forward at Tampa Catholic - is a second-team choice....

  3. A punter is the state's only first-team, midseason All-American

    Blog

    Here's another indictment of how mediocre the state's college football season has become.

    The AP released its midseason All-America team on Tuesday, and the only first-team selection from Florida was ... Gators punter Johnny Townsend.

    Two other players from the state were second-team selections: USF kicker Emilion Nadelman and Florida State safety Derwin James.

    For comparison, the state had four players on the preseason team, including two first teamers (James and FSU cornerback Tarvarus McFadden)....

  4. Exposé 'Champions Way' uses FSU to illustrate bad behavior in college programs

    College

    While the entire college football universe was focused on a sexual assault allegation against quarterback Jameis Winston during Florida State's 2013 national title run, another off-field scandal was playing out quietly.

    Champions Way: Football, Florida, and the Lost Soul of College Sports explores allegations of academic impropriety (involving former Plant High star James Wilder Jr., among others) raised by whistleblower Christina Suggs during that perfect season. ...

    Florida State Seminoles running back James Wilder Jr. (32) celebrates his touchdown, the Seminoles second of the night, during the second quarter of the game between the Florida State Seminoles and the University of Miami Hurricanes at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013.
  5. Charlie Strong, Gulf High and the best (old) Jon Gruden-Tennessee rumor

    Blog

    As Butch Jones keeps losing, Tennessee Vols fans are turning to one of the media's favorite pastimes.

    Jon Gruden coaching rumors....

  6. Could the Florida Gators really fail to make a bowl game?

    Blog

    The Florida Gators are 3-3 for the third time since 1986, and things could be getting worse.

    They might not make a bowl.

    That's the conclusion of SBNation, at least, which doesn't have UF in its latest bowl projections....

  7. AP Top 25: Miami Hurricanes back in the top 10, USF and USF jump

    Blog

    Thanks to a 5-0 start, the Miami Hurricanes are back in the top 10 of the latest AP Top 25 poll.

    Miami is No. 8 - its highest ranking since midway through the 2013 season. I had the ‘Canes at No. 5 ion my ballot (which you can see here).

    USF continued its rise. The Bulls jumped two spots to No. 16 after beating Cincinnati on Saturday evening. That's USF's highest raanking since 2011. ...

  8. My AP Top 25 ballot: Miami Hurricanes in the top five, USF, UCF up

    Blog

    After a predictably unpredictable weekend of college football, filling out my AP Top 25 ballot took a lot longer than usual.

    I'll let a fellow AP Voter, also awesomely named Matt B., explain:

    So yeah, my ballot doesn't make perfect sense. It can't, because this weekend was ridiculous. Fun, but ridiculous....

  9. Pressure's on Jim McElwain after Florida's latest loss

    College

    GAINESVILLE — It took a month, but Jim McElwain's house of cards has started to fall.

    The crumbling continued Saturday with Florida's 19-17 home loss to Texas A&M.

    UF (3-3, 3-2 SEC) surrendered a fourth-quarter lead by giving up three late field goals to East Lake High alumnus Daniel LaCamera. His final one — a 32-yarder with 58 seconds left — temporarily cooled the hot seat of Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin....

    Florida Gators running back Lamical Perine (22) gets stopped during the second quarter of the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. At the half, Florida was up 10 to 3.
  10. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder (or recruit)

    College

    GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Jim McElwain didn't need to see his team's swamp green alternate uniforms in action Saturday night to know that they served their purpose.

    No, they were not universally beloved; McElwain said his hate mail tripled before Saturday's game against Texas A&M.

    But the demographic McElwain wanted to hit — recruits — liked them.

    "Man, the excitement has been unbelievable," McElwain told reporters Wednesday. ...

    Florida Gators running back Malik Davis (20) warms up before the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla.
  11. Lacoochee's Mudcat Grant on his 1960s anthem moment: 'Those were trying times'

    The Heater

    More than 50 years before Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee during the national anthem, Jim "Mudcat" Grant stood in a Cleveland bullpen with something on his mind.

    The Lacoochee native was a right-handed pitcher for the Indians, and he wasn't happy about how African-Americans like himself were being treated. He couldn't eat at restaurants with his white teammates. He couldn't stay in the same hotels, either, in certain cities. His former roommate, Larry Doby, received death threats after becoming the first black player in the American League....

    Sam Mele, skipper of the American league champion Minnesota Twins, right, and hurler Jim "Mudcat" Grant on Oct. 5, 1965.
  12. College football viewing guide, Week 7

    College

    Must-see and meh time frames Saturday for college football:

    Lamest time window: Late. No top-25 matchups, and upsets seem more likely in the early games.

    Noon: Kansas State seems good enough to ruin someone's season. Is that someone No. 6 TCU Saturday in Manhattan?...

    USC quarterback Sam Darnold (14) loses his grip on the ball as he goes back to throw in the second quarter against Oregon State at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. The host Trojans won, 38-10. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
  13. How Nike designed Florida Gators' swamp green alternate uniforms

    Blog

    Florida's Gator-themed alternate uniforms have been one of the most talked about topics in college football this week.

    That can be good or bad, depending on how you feel about UF's decision to ditch its traditional orange and blue for Saturday's home game against Texas A&M....

  14. Why are college football coaches' buyouts so big?

    College

    As the temperature rises on hot seats in the SEC and across the country, one number has become as important as a coach's record.

    His buyout.

    If Texas A&M wanted to fire coach Kevin Sumlin — whose Aggies play at Florida on Saturday — the school must pay him $10 million. That's about $2 million less than what Gary Andersen could have had when he left Oregon State on Monday. And it's $5 million less than what Arkansas would need to can Bret Bielema and his 10-24 SEC record....

    FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2015, file photo, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin looks at the scoreboard as his team gathers during a timeout in an NCAA college football game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss. Don't be surprised if Sumlin departs on his own terms if A&M has a good season. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
  15. Frustration showing after slow starts at Florida, Florida State

    Blog

    Things are not going well at 3-2 Florida and 1-3 Florida State.
    And it's beginning to show.

    Like this tweet, from Gators receiver Dre Massey, after last week's 17-16 home loss to LSU.

    ...