Tom Jones was born and raised in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and studied English at the University of South Florida from 1982 to 1986.
He began his writing career with the St. Petersburg Evening Independent in 1985. He then went on to work for the St. Petersburg Times from 1987 to 1991, the Tampa Tribune from 1991 to 1996, the St. Petersburg Times again from 1996 to 2000 and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune from 2000 to 2003. He then rejoined the St. Petersburg Times for a third time in his career in 2003, where he worked ever since.
Jones has spent most of his career covering the NHL, including being a beat writer for more than 15 years of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Minnesota. Wild. He also spent two years on the Tampa Bay Rays beat. He then become a columnist at Times starting in 2007. Jones has won several national and state writing awards, including a top 10 game story in the nation in 1998 as named by the Associated Press Sports Editors.
Over the course of his career, Jones has covered the Olympics, the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup finals, baseball and hockey all-star games, the NCAA basketball tournament and the Frozen Four.
Jones lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Patty, and sons, Sam and Andy.
With over two decades of reporting on professional and collegiate sports for the Tampa Bay Times, through performance and work experience in journalism and broadcasting in television and radio, Rick Stroud has cultivated an impressive list of sources and utilized his knowledge to produce an outstanding body of work in both print and electronic mediums.
During his career, Stroud has reported on national sporting events including 22 Super Bowls, the NCAA Final Four, and the Major League Baseball Playoffs. While working as the beat writer assigned to the University of Florida at the Times, Stroud’s stories documented NCAA rules violations by the football and basketball programs. The stories for which Stroud won second place for Best Investigative Reporting from the Associated Press Sports Editors, led to sanctions against both Gators programs.
Since 2004, Stroud has appeared as an NFL Insider for ESPN2’s First Take and is a regular contributor to ESPN’s SportsCenter, NFL Live, Outside the Lines and Herd with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio. He also contributes to NFL Network’s Total Access.
Stroud becan covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the National Football League in 1990. Since then, the Bucs have undergone seven coaching changes, the death of owner Hugh Culverhouse and the sale of the franchise to billionaire owner Malcolm Glazer and a stadium referendum. They also celebrated a Super Bowl XXVII victory. His reporting was referenced in Tony Dungy’s best seller, Quiet Strength, particularly because it was Stroud who informed Dungy of the Bucs’ plan to replace him with Giants Super Bowl coach Bill Parcells.
A former Div. I-A baseball player at Arkansas , Stroud brings a unique perspective to sports reporting. During the NFL lockout in 2011, he also served as one of the Times’ beat writers responsible for covering the Tampa Bay Rays.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Fresh from pitching against solid Atlanta hitters, Jake Westbrook faced a far trickier test: Guess how much fans paid for box seats to watch the exhibition game.
"Hmmm, I have no idea," the St. Louis starter ventured. "Twenty bucks?"
Gotcha! $54 for top tickets sold Tuesday at the Braves' ballpark at Walt Disney World Resort.
"Wow," Westbrook said.
All over Florida and Arizona, teams are paying the price. Spring training attendance is off and several things are to blame, aside from pricey tickets — early start, cold weather and lineups depleted by injured stars and players dispatched to the World Baseball Classic.
The dip is nearly 14 percent lower than it was on this date last year, STATS said.
Games started about a week earlier this season because players wanted to get in shape for the World Baseball Classic. That meant games were scheduled before many fans arrived for vacation and spring break. By the end of February, several teams had already played for a week.
"I think we started about eight or nine days too early. That means a whole lot," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said.
The weather hasn't been ideal, either — a freak winter storm out West and a cold snap down South.
Normally a big draw wherever they go, the Yankees played to a crowd of 3,213 when they visited the Houston Astros. Then again, the glitziest name in New York's split-squad lineup that day was Matt Diaz.
The Orioles often sold out home games versus the likes of the Yankees, Boston and Philadelphia. Not this year in Sarasota, Fla.
"With the WBC and a whole different start, people plan spring training according to spring break. People have other things going on in their life," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.
Big league exhibitions began on Feb. 22 and averaged 5,789 fans through March 12. They started on March 2 last year and averaged 6,703 by that same date, with several teams on their way to setting attendance records.
Major League Baseball drew 30,895 per game during the regular season last year, its best mark since 2008.
Oakland A's manager Bob Melvin noticed the empty seats in Phoenix.
"It seems like it's down some," he said last weekend. "The schedule seems more spread out this year. A lot of people come to games with certain dates in mind."
Better be ready to spend money, too.
It costs more than $25 for a good seat at most spring parks. Several teams vary their prices depending on the opponent or the day — a ticket behind the third base dugout to see the World Series champion Giants host Colorado this Sunday sold for $68.75 on San Francisco's online site.
The Cardinals are among the most popular teams every spring. Like other clubs, they expect bigger crowds throughout March.
"I think in general we were kind of chalking it up to, it's kind of cool, we started so early. You are not going to get a whole lot of people showing up in February," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
The Cardinals share Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., with the Miami Marlins. Mike Bauer, who runs the ballpark, said the attendance pattern is predictable.
"Anytime we start in February, we start off a little slower than usual," said Bauer, the stadium's general manager.
"If you compare this year to last year, it's going to be a decrease because they had the World Series championship on the Cardinals side and a new facility on the Marlins side. But it's been right about where we expected," he said.
The Braves aren't too concerned, either.
"We got a bump with the Daytona 500 falling the weekend we opened. Then attendance fell off, as you would expect with the first games so early," Atlanta general manager Frank Wren said. "Crowds always pick up with the start of spring break in March, especially here at Disney."
Among those at the Braves' park on Tuesday were Bill Heuvelman and son Patrick, who drove from St. Louis to see their team. For a week at spring training, they didn't mind the prices, even with Cardinals stars Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina away at the WBC.
"This is something we do. It's worth it," Bill said.
A sign outside the box office that listed lower level reserved seats for $54 — tickets cost $5 more on game days — caught the attention of four college-age friends from Auburn, Ala.
"I noticed it right away. Seemed pretty steep to me," Nick Goudreau told buddy Chase Hoyle.
But Brett Frizzell said he'd already warned pal Brooks Cowing.
"I sent him a picture on Instagram that showed it," Frizzell said. "October prices for spring training baseball."