By Ethan Marshall
The Tim Tebow show arrived in Port St. Lucie a few weeks ago, and, this week, he appeared in two spring training games for the Mets. The 29-year old prospect went 0-7, with three strikeouts and a hit-by-pitch in the the Grapefruit League.
After signing with the Mets last summer to play full-time professional baseball for the first time since when he was a junior in high school in 2005, Tebow was thrown right into the wringer this spring. His Grapefruit League debut last Wednesday came against 2016 A.L. Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello. Porcello struck him out looking on four pitches.
Tebow’s second at-bat seemed like a Hollywood movie moment in the making when he stepped into the box with the bases loaded and nobody out. A homer would’ve added to the circus that is Tim Tebow. While Tebow did hit the ball hard, it was on the ground and right at the second baseman, resulting in a double play.
After getting hit in the shoulder in his third at-bat, Tebow didn’t even flinch as he tossed his bat and went to first base. Tebow would get doubled up shortly after this when he was caught too far off first base on a lineout to second by L.J. Mazzili.
While Tebow and the Mets have been criticized for inserting him into the starting lineup, taking away playing time from potentially better ballplayers, it should be noted that Tebow was a very good baseball player in his high school days. Tebow’s former high school baseball coach, Greg “Boo” Mullins, described him as a “six-tool player,” the sixth tool being his character. In a 2013 interview with The Sporting News, the former Nease High (Ponte Vedre, Florida) baseball coach said “Everybody should know this: He wasn’t just a great football player, he was a great baseball player too. I believe he could have played in the big leagues.
In his junior year, Tebow batted .494, with four homers, 30 RBI, and 10 doubles. Mullins projected Tebow could’ve been drafted between the 7th and 12th rounds out of high school. He went as far to say that Tebow could’ve potentially be drafted in the second round had he played baseball in college. The reason he was never drafted, as Mullins points out, was that while multiple MLB teams were considering drafting him out of high school, they didn’t want to waste a pick on a man who had clear intentions of playing football over baseball.
Despite Tebow’s unsurprisingly poor spring performance, Mets manager Terry Collins did see some bright spots in the former Heisman Trophy winner. According to The New York Daily News, Collins said “The speed of the game is really something he hasn’t seen before. [Wednesday] was his first game, he went back and took live (batting practice) and he saw better at-bats [Friday]. He was more rested at the plate, a lot more comfortable. All things considered I thought he did a nice job.”
Regardless of how Tebow’s baseball career pans out, every at-bat, every defensive opportunity, and every game he participates in will be heavily covered by the media. For the Mets, this is just the beginning of the Tim Tebow circus sideshow.