COMMENTARY — The last time I saw Jameis Winston in person was March of 2012. It was, shall we say, an inauspicious occasion.
It was the championship game of the Jefferson County Schools Baseball Tournament, played between Gardendale and “Jaboo” and his Hueytown team at Samford University. The senior prodigy played shortstop most of the game, and was being harassed incessantly by a group of Rocket fans — mainly boys who were students. Nothing out of line, mind you, just the usual bunch of rowdies giving the opposing team’s star player a hard time.
In the bottom of the ninth inning with no outs and a 4-4 score, Rocket coach Pat Keedy engaged with a little trickeration and called for a double steal. The ploy worked, giving Gardendale runners on second and third.
Golden Gophers coach Rick Patterson got into a heated argument about whether or not the runner at third was safe, and was tossed from the game. But before he bid farewell, Patterson sent Winston to the mound to try to get Hueytown out of its predicament.
It didn’t go well for Winston. He threw one pitch, which Bryce Jay sent deep to left field. It was deep enough for Rocket shortstop Chris Blakey to score from third, and Gardendale won the big trophy.
Winston was not happy, to say the least. He started jawing with the Rocket rowdies, and had to be restrained by his Gopher teammates. It was an indication, though a minor one, of a temper that Winston had displayed before in various ways and in various sports.
The assumption by most sports reporters then was that Winston’s future would be in professional baseball, even though his talents on the gridiron were enormous. He lost the Mr. Football balloting to his good friend T.J. Yeldon in 2012, but just barely. We all knew he was great at football, but better on the diamond, and would be a superstar if he stayed healthy and kept out of trouble.