Feb. 12, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State's highly anticipated quarterback battle doesn't officially begin until March 20 when spring football practice commences but Jameis Winston may have already earned one starting job.
The FSU baseball team begins its 2013 season Friday against Rhode Island and Winston, the two-sport student-athlete that redshirted as a rookie football player last season and will be in a four-player battle for the starting quarterback job next month, could potentially be in one of two starting spots for the 'Noles in his first collegiate baseball game.
"I would say left field is getting to be where if one starts, the other is going to be [designated hitter]," longtime FSU baseball coach Mike Martin said. "I'm talking about 'Jaboo' [Winston] and [junior-college transfer] Marcus [Davis]."
In the weeks leading up to the season, Winston's early role while he juggles baseball and football was thought to be most likely on the mound at closer. But Martin's announcement to gathered media Tuesday as the rain fell steadily on Dick Howser Stadium was significant, albeit not overly surprising.
After all, the talented switch-hitting Winston was considered one of the nation's top prep baseball players coming out of high school last year in addition to being a five-star quarterback prospect. He was talented enough as a pitcher and outfielder that the Texas Rangers drafted him in the 15th round of the Major League Baseball Draft last summer despite it being well known that Winston had every intention of continuing his football and baseball career at Florida State.
Now about eight months after enrolling at FSU and a month-and-a-half after concluding a football season that saw him watch from the sideline and run the scout-team offense, Winston is on the verge of not just seeing his first official collegiate action in either sport but doing so in a starter's role as well.
"It's a lot of fun and I am glad to have this chance -- whatever my role is -- but I just want to win," Winston said. "That's it. That's all that matters. Above all else, my goal is to be in the College World Series."
In addition to his designated hitting and work in the outfield, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder still has that chance to help the Seminoles get back to Omaha on the mound.
His potential starting role in left field or as a "DH" doesn't take him out of the equation at closer, where the 'Noles may use a committee approach to cap off ballgames after losing Robert Benincasa to the Washington Nationals organization.
"I think the game will dictate [who the closer is]," FSU pitching coach Mike Bell said. "You see nights in the big leagues where the closer has been used one or two different nights and they've got to have someone else close the game. Not to say it's going to be best available option that night but I think we are going to try to let the game dictate which way we go and I think we'll see somebody rise to that occasion."
Whether or not that somebody Bell is predicting can be Winston remains to be seen but his schedule with football will certainly play a factor in how much he contributes on the diamond -- no matter if he is starting in left field, serving in the designated hitter role or closing out games with the baseball in his hand.
Once football practice begins and the competition under center with Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker and Sean Maguire officially heats up, Winston likely won't miss any football practices and therefore may not travel for any road games. The Seminoles have a single game in Jacksonville against Florida (March 26) and three-game sets at Virginia Tech (March 29-31) and Miami (April 5-7) on their baseball schedule while spring football practice is in full swing.
The annual Garnet and Gold Game is schedule for April 13 at 2 p.m., signifying the end of spring practice and, in his case, Winston's full availability for Martin's squad.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," Winston said. "And we have a plan to make it all work."