TAMPA — George M. Steinbrenner Field, normally the land of pinstripes, was awash in garnet and gold this afternoon.
The Florida State Seminoles – along with Heisman Trophy winner-turned-baseball player Jameis Winston – were in town for an exhibition game against the New York Yankees.
The results hardly mattered – the Yankees prevailed 8-3, while Winston grounded out and struck out looking – because it was mostly an event for autograph-seekers and photographers to witness college football’s highest-profile star in his other sport.
“I think most of the Florida State fans were Yankee fans, they just had on garnet and gold,’’ said Winston, who admitted he’s still very rusty offensively. “I’ve been struggling this spring, but that’s just baseball, man.
“I probably have more success in football, but baseball is a passion of mine and I want to play as long as possible.’’
Winston, who had three relief appearances and one at-bat heading into Tuesday’s exhibition, led the No. 1-ranked Seminoles to a 34-31 victory against Auburn in the BCS Championship Game at Pasadena, Calif. He immediately shifted into baseball mode, joining Mike Martin’s Seminoles program.
Last season, Winston batted .235 for FSU, while going 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA as a pitcher. Winston said his dream is to juggle both sports professionally. Martin said it works fine at FSU because of the cooperation of Seminoles football coach Jimbo Fisher, who threw out today’s ceremonial first pitch.
Winston also will participate in spring football, perhaps missing an occasional baseball game, but Martin said he’s a welcome addition to his program.
“There’s no doubt, his popularity is beyond anything we’ve had in our program,’’ Martin said. “He doesn’t walk around like he’s the main attraction, like he’s the one everyone came here to see. He walks around like a Florida State baseball player, proud to wear the uniform.’’
That sentiment was echoed by Winston’s baseball teammates.
“It’s hectic sometimes, but it’s good exposure for him and everyone else,’’ Seminoles outfielder Ben Deluzio said. “He doesn’t take what he’s done in football into the locker room. He comes out like a baseball player. He’s part of the team.’’
“All these fans come to see him play and it brings out more fans for all of us,’’ Seminoles left fielder D.J. Stewart said. “It’s fun to be around him. He’s a great teammate.’’
FSU (6-0, Tuesday’s result doesn’t count on its record) has a three-game home series against Miami this weekend before returning to Tampa for a two-game set at the University of South Florida next Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.