Make us your home page

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. Attorneys: Caleb Brantley wasn't the aggressor. He is the victim


    Caleb Brantley's attorneys have issued a statement regarding a battery accusation from a complaint that he punched a woman in the face in a fight earlier this month.

    The statement from the Gainesville firm Johnson & Osteryoung said Brantley was home until 1:30 a.m. on April 13 before he drove to a restaurant to give a friend a ride. While waiting, he began talking with "a young lady with whom Mr. Brantley had had a prior relationship." She asked about having "an appointment" with him, but he declined....

  2. Florida DL Caleb Brantley's case remains murky, as does draft stock


    It has been almost two weeks since former Florida defensive lineman Caleb Brantley was involved in an early morning fight near a Gainesville bar, and the situation remains murky.

    It didn't get any clearer Monday, even after public statements from all parties involved. And it might not be resolved until after this week's NFL draft, where Brantley is regarded as an early round talent.

    Three days after he was charged with misdemeanor battery on a complaint that he punched UF student Chelsea Austin, 20, of Summerfield in the face, Brantley's attorneys entered an innocent plea in Alachua County court. ...

    DT Caleb Brantley was a second-team All-SEC selection last season for the Gators, prompting him to forgo his senior year for the NFL draft.
  3. What does Caleb Brantley battery charge mean for his NFL draft stock?


    The Caleb Brantley story has a lot of layers. My third (and final) story from yesterday gets into most of them, including the battery charge, an allegation that the Gainesville Police Department "falsified" a report and a comment from Brantley's attorney. GPD said that claim was "absurd" in a statement it issued this morning....

  4. Gainesville PD: Claim of falsified report in Caleb Brantley case is 'simply absurd'


    UPDATE, 1:05: The complainant's attorney, North Florida Lawyers' Michael Williams, issued this statement Monday to clarify its statement Sunday evening: At no time did North Florida Lawyers, PLLC or the victim Chelsea Austin accuse the Gainesville Police Department of "falsifying" a police report. We do not know the origin of the police report circulated on April 13-14th, 2017.

    My earlier post from Monday morning is below....

  5. NFL draft prospect Caleb Brantley charged with punching woman in face


    Just days before he was expected to be an early round pick in the NFL draft, former Florida defensive lineman Caleb Brantley faces a misdemeanor battery charge on a complaint that he knocked a woman unconscious in a fight earlier this month.

    The charge filed Friday appears to be a complete reversal from the first report by the Gainesville Police Department, which listed Brantley, 22, as the victim in an early morning altercation on April 13. But that's because the initial report was wrong, according to the woman's attorney, North Florida Lawyers' Michael Williams. He said that report was falsified and that Gainesville police told him the officers listed on that report were not involved. ...

    Caleb Brantley’s initial report was falsified, a lawyer says.
  6. Attorney: Police falsified report in Caleb Brantley case


    UPDATE, 9:30 p.m.: I just spoke with Caleb Brantley's attorney, Huntley Johnson. Here's his statement: "Caleb Brantley was the victim the night this happened, and he is still being victimized." Johnson declined further comment. 

    My first blog post, with comments from the woman's attorney, is below: 


    The attorney for the complainant in the Caleb Brantley case says the Gainesville Police Department "falsified a report" in the battery investigation surrounding the former Florida Gators defensive lineman and NFL draft prospect. ...

  7. NFL draft prospect Caleb Brantley charged with battery


    Former Florida Gators defensive lineman Caleb Brantley has been charged with battery after fighting with a woman earlier this month, according to Alachua County court records.

    Brantley was initially listed as the victim in a Gainesville Police Department report after an early-morning altercation on April 13. You can read that initial police report here. But he was charged Friday with misdemeanor battery. ...

    Caleb Brantley greets fans in 2016.
  8. Bucs should jump at chance to draft FSU RB Dalvin Cook


    Two of the first things that stood out about Dalvin Cook were his shoes — shiny and gold.

    They carried him to 223 yards and four touchdowns in Miami Central High's 52-7 win over Armwood in the 2013 state title game. They flashed as he capped an 80-yard score by somersaulting into the end zone.

    After that day in Orlando, I watched him in garnet and gold as he attacked former Bucs great Warrick Dunn's records at Florida State. I saw Cook at his best (169 yards, four touchdowns against eventual national champion Clemson) and his worst (two lost fumbles in the Rose Bowl). I put him on my Heisman Trophy ballot — twice....

    Dalvin Cook was a flashy standout at Miami Central, beating up on Armwood in the 2013 state title game. (Eve Edelheit, Times)
  9. Where locals, state schools land on ESPN's first 2018 recruiting rankings


    ESPN unveiled its first recruiting rankings for the class of 2018 this morning. Some highlights:

    Miami has the country's No. 1 class, which isn't a surprise. Eleven of its 16 oral commitments are top-300 recruits. That's pretty good....

    The top local is Berkeley Prep offensive tackle Nick Petit-Frere. He's a four-star prospect and ESPN's No. 22 overall recruit.
  10. NCAA basketball tournament to return to Tampa in 2020


    After a nine-year hiatus, the NCAA men's basketball tournament will return to Tampa in 2020.

    Amalie Arena will host first- and second-round games on March 19 and 21, the NCAA announced Tuesday.

    "We're thrilled," said Rob Higgins, the executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. "Our community has always stepped up and really wrapped their arms around the opportunity to host the first and second rounds. We couldn't be more excited for March of 2020."...

  11. March Madness returning to Tampa in 2020


    March Madness is coming back to Tampa.

    Amalie Arena will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament on March 19 and 21, 2020, the NCAA announced Tuesday afternoon.

    "We're thrilled," said Rob Higgins, the executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. "We've had such a great history of hosting. Our community has always stepped up and really wrapped their arms around the opportunity to host the first and second rounds. We couldn't be more excited for March of 2020." ...

    Kentucky's Brandon Knight (12) and Terrence Jones (3) battle Princeton's Brendan Connolly (44) during the 2011 NCAA Tournament in Tampa.
  12. Florida boasts highest percentage of D-I football recruits - by far


    Florida is the top producer of Division I football recruits, even when factoring in the number of players in the state.

    That's the takeaway from this map produced from NCAA research:

  13. Ex-Gator Will Grier 'as good as advertised' for WVU


    As the Florida Gators continue to search internally (and perhaps externally) for their next quarterback, let's check in on Will Grier.

    Grier looked like UF's long-term answer in 2015, when he completed almost 66 percent of his passes and threw 10 touchdowns and three interceptions in six games - including wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee. Then he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and earned a one-year NCAA suspension....

  14. The not-so-obvious Tampa tie to Miami Hurricanes' QB battle


    The Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter updated us on the Miami Hurricanes' quarterback battle as Mark Richt tries to replace NFL-bound Brad Kaaya.

    It's worth a read, and it includes the headline that redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs "appears to be the leader." The reason why has some Tampa Bay ties....

    Former Hillsborough High quarterback Dwayne Lawson never played at Miami, but he's still (kinda sorta) having an impact with the Hurricanes.
  15. How serious are the Malik Zaire-Florida Gators rumors?


    There's a lot of chatter regarding former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire and the Florida Gators. Some of it is legitimate. Some of it borders on ludicrous. Let's break it down:...