The Yankees will play the Florida State baseball team in an exhibition game on Tuesday and 2013 Heisman trophy winner, Jameis Winston, who is also the Seminoles closer and right fielder, could be on the field against them, according to ESPN and the associated press.
If Winston has any say in the matter, he will definitely be in the game. The star quarterback told ESPN, "If they'd ask me to catch..I'd catch, just so I can see those guys bat". The Yankees are Winston's "favorite team" and he anticipated being "a little starstruck" at the idea of playing against the historic franchise.
The Yankees coaching staff expressed some excitement about seeing the two-sport star as well. Manager Joe Girardi said, "It will be fun to watch. Obviously, he's extremely athletic when you watch him play the game of football. He's got a great arm. Pretty mature for his age." Special instructor and Hall-of-Fame closer Goose Gossage said he is "excited to see him."
Winston is obviously an extremely talented football player -- he did lead Florida State to a 14-0 record and a national title as a sophomore and picked up the Heisman for his efforts -- but his baseball skills are also strong enough to make him a potential first round draft pick. Thanks to that combination, he has begun drawing comparisons two-sport legend Bo Jackson.
Though the allure of the NFL might be too much for Winston to walk away from, there is a chance that Girardi and the Yankees could see plenty more of him if he sticks with baseball. The Alabama native was a 15th round pick for the Rangers in 2012, despite the knowledge that he was probably headed to FSU. If he enters the MLB amatuer draft again, he will come off the board far earlier. On the baseball field, Winston is an extremely intriguing player, even if his devotion to football has left his skills a little raw. J.J Copper of Baseball America recently broke down his profile and believed the Heisman Trophy winner could be a first-round prospect as a pitcher:
"If football weren't a factor, Winston would have a solid chance to be a 2015 first-round pick in baseball. On the mound, he showed a 92-94 mph fastball and a promising slider."
Cooper quotes a "a longtime National League amateur scout" who feels the same:
"For me, if he pitches enough, someone could say first round easily. Someone can dream and say that's a starting pitcher. Someone would dream on him as a starter. He'd go somewhere around 15 to 20 in the first round as a starting pitcher."
That is exciting, but Cooper doesn't just stop there, pointing out that:
"If Winston focused on baseball and got plenty of at-bats as an outfielder, he also has first-round potential there.
'If he had 100 ABs his senior year, 200 at-bats last summer, say 200 this next summer in the Cape Cod League, he would be a first-rounder as a hitter, too," the scout said. "He doesn't strike out all that much, he's not overmatched. You wonder if swing is a little long, but he's got a pretty good contact rate . . . He just hasn't had the at-bats'"
The caveat concerning Winston's focus is a real issue for his future in baseball. Cooper notes that not only is Winston splitting time between the two sports, he is also dividing his focus on the baseball field between pitching and hitting. If that isn't enough, he is also a switch hitter. That is a tremendous amount for a young player to focus on regardless of how talented he is. As a college athlete, Winston can still be a dominant player in both sports, but baseball scouts don't see the next Bo Jackson just yet.
Whether he goes to the NFL or he dedicates himself to baseball, Jameis Winston is a special talent and he has an excellent shot at being an impact player at the highest level. He will get a taste of what it might be like to travel down that second road on Tuesday, facing a baseball team that has more championships than any other professional franchise.