TAMPA, Fla. – The New York Yankees have had encounters with college-football standouts, including one who played at Florida State. That was Deion Sanders, nicknamed Prime Time, who signed his minor-league contract with a dollar sign for the S in his name, as general manager Brian Cashman recalled.
The Yankees also signed a quarterback from Stanford named John Elway and another quarterback, Drew Henson, from Michigan. Even the patriarch of the Chicago Bears, George Halas, played 12 games for the Yankees in 1919.
On Tuesday, the Yankees crossed paths with another football star from Florida State. Jameis Winston, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, brought his celebrity buzz and virtually took over the Yankees’ camp, a reminder of how difficult it is for other sports in Florida to compete with the allure of college football.
Winston, who led the Seminoles to the national football title over Auburn in January, is an outfielder and the closer on the baseball team, the Yankees’ first spring-training opponent.
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Winston entered the game in the fifth inning as a substitute left fielder and went 0 for 2 with a groundout and a strikeout as the Yankees won 8-3.
“I’ve had more success in football,” he said.
But he enjoys his time on the diamond.
“I’m just 20 years old,” Winston said. “This is my life, man. I want to play both as long as I can. I love both of them.”
Winston described himself as a Yankees fan.
“I enjoyed the day,” he said. “I was shocked to be out here in front of these guys and be on the same field with them.”
• Erik Bedard is eager to help the Tampa Bay Rays get back to the playoffs.
The 34-year-old left-hander signed a minor-league contract before spring training and is competing for a job as the team’s No. 5 starter. Former Mariner Bedard struggled the past two seasons, going 11-26 with a combined 4.78 earned-run average for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros.
But Rays manager Joe Maddon recalls how effectively Bedard pitched early in his career with AL East rival Baltimore.
“You’d like to think that putting him in front of our defense is going to make (his numbers) even better. … He could be better than a .500 pitcher,” said Maddon, adding one of the keys to Bedard’s success with the Orioles was “he was able to throw something other than a fastball in a fastball count for a strike. He was uncanny at that.”
• Pitcher Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers doesn’t sound thrilled about opening the season against Arizona in Sydney, Australia.
“I would say there is absolutely zero excitement about it,” he told ESPNLosAngeles.com last weekend.
Organizers of the March 22-23 games were assured by Dodgers officials Greinke was speaking for himself and not the entire team, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
• Left-hander Madison Bumgarner will be the San Francisco Giants’ opening-day starter.