Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and No. 2 Florida State will head to USF for a two-game series, starting tonight at 7.
“Winstonmania” isn’t in the Oxford Dictionary, but it’s been used to describe the hype surrounding the two-sport athlete who won the BCS Championship against Auburn and is a right-handed relief pitcher and outfielder for the ‘Noles.
Winston is also a switch hitter, who has singled twice and scored a run in his two at-bats. In relief, he’s allowed one hit in five innings over a course of four appearances.
“He’s accomplished a lot of things, but we just have to take him like any other player, any other pitcher,” USF shortstop Kyle Teaf said.
Winston hasn’t started a game, but still draws crowds everywhere he plays.
Aside from the exhibition game FSU (8-1) played and lost 8-3 against the New York Yankees last Tuesday; the Seminoles have played one away game in Jacksonville, drawing a crowd of 3,000.
The attendance at John Sessions Stadium hasn’t been more than 218 since.
The biggest crowd the Bulls have drawn this season is 1,607 against Penn State. But with FSU in town, people are expected to pack the park.
USF right-fielder Daniel Portales embraces the same mindset every time he takes the field, regardless of the crowd size.
“I come and give the same effort even if there’s one person in the stands or 20,000 people in the stands,” Portales said.
Larger crowds mean heavier security.
Sixteen security guards and four police officers will patrol this two-game set, compared to the usual seven security guards and one police officer, according to USF baseball’s sports information director Manny Nieves.
Last year, Winston also garnered much media attention after a sexual assault investigation, which ultimately resulted in charges against him being dropped, brought the issue of college football and sexual assault into the national spotlight.
In addition to the extra security, Winston has a personal Florida State police officer that accompanies him at home and away games.
“I’m sure it’s going to be crazy, which is good,” USF second baseman Nik Alfonso said. “It makes it fun for us.”
USF and FSU also played in 1984 when Nik’s dad, Tony Alfonso, led the Bulls in 59 runs, 79 hits and 27 stolen bases.
“My dad always talked about how when he went to play Florida State, and how it was such a big deal,” Alfonso said.
The excitement surrounding the matchup hasn’t dwindled.
“It’s what makes college baseball fun: playing those tough teams and trying to come out and get some tough Ws,” Nik said. “That’s really what’s going to put us on the map eventually.”
USF (9-2) has had its best start since 1982. This season, USF won its first seven games and split a four-game series against Columbia, winning the latter two games.
In the Bulls’ nine wins, they’ve outscored their opponents 86-27. FSU has been offensively charged, also, outscoring its opponents 83-42.
Though it’s a big series, USF coach Lelo Prado said he wants his players to just go out and play the way they’re capable of playing.
“Just got to treat it like any other game, can’t get myself too hyped up, but I’ve got to keep my energy level up,” Portales said. “The whole team needs to come ready to play.”
The matchup featuring “Famous Jameis,” as he’s been nicknamed, will start tonight and finish Wednesday at 3 p.m.