It was a critical ACC baseball game for Georgia Tech, but a certain Florida State outfielder and relief pitcher was hard to ignore in the pre-game Friday night at Russ Chandler Stadium.
After the game, a 5-3 win for the Yellow Jackets over No. 1 Florida State, Tech coach Danny Hall mulled over a question over whether his players were in awe of Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston as he moonlights on the Seminoles baseball team.
“Maybe,” Hall said. “But, hey, he’s the Heisman Trophy winner. That’s instant respect right there.”
Prior to the game, Winston signed dozens of autographs near the FSU bullpen down the right-field line. Undoubtedly, the FSU contingent at Russ Chandler swelled due to his presence. Prior to the game, a woman in FSU gear clutching a football hurried out of a parking deck across the street from the stadium, presumably not intending to work on her spiral between innings.
Winston became the first Heisman Trophy winner to compete against Tech in any sport since another Heisman winner from FSU, Charlie Ward, played for the Seminoles basketball team against the Jackets in 1994. Roger Staubach, the 1964 winner, played in a football game against Tech in 1964. It was not determined Friday whether Bo Jackson (1985 winner) played baseball for Auburn against Tech in the spring of 1986.
Just before the first pitch, Winston popped out of the dugout, leading his teammates onto the field as both teams exchanged handshakes as part of the ACC’s sportsmanship week. It was his last appearance before he took the field as a defensive replacement in left field in the bottom of the seventh, making one putout on a fly ball. He popped to left in his only at-bat, in the top of the eighth.
His more significant contribution to the team has been on the mound, where he has a 1.76 ERA and a .161 opponent batting average.
Winston was to return to Tallahassee, Fla., to take part in the football team’s spring game Saturday and then fly back to Atlanta for the final game of the series on Sunday.
Whether or not the Jackets were in awe of Winston was not clear. But he did make an impression.
“He’s big,” shortstop Connor Justus said. “He’s definitely big.”