Tebow enters Mets camp ‘all in’ on baseball

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New York Mets' Tim Tebow jogs up the first baseline at spring training baseball practice Saturday in Port St. Lucie. (AP Photo/Mike Fitzpatrick)
By MIKE FITZPATRICK, AP Baseball Writer
PORT ST. LUCIE — By now, Tim Tebow has shown he belongs in professional baseball. He’s fully committed to the game and much more comfortable on the field.
Sometimes, though, he still sounds like a football player.On his first day at spring training with the New York Mets, the former NFL quarterback was reflecting on last year, when he injured his ankle stepping on a sprinkler head at the beginning of camp.”I didn’t run or I didn’t play one snap of outfield,” Tebow said Saturday, eliciting big laughs while catching his own slip-up.

Nevertheless, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner out of the University of Florida is no fish out of shoulder pads anymore. He’s not on the 40-man major league roster, but he’s in big league camp for the second consecutive year and ticketed for Triple-A Syracuse in April.

One step away.

“This will be like, sort of the biggest spring training for me,” the 31-year-old Tebow said. “This journey isn’t defined by just getting there. I think, shoot, I’ve already enjoyed it enough to say it’s worth it. The whole process. Would that be awesome? Of course it would. It would be such an amazing thing and it would be so enjoyable, but at the same time, regardless of what happens, I know that I’ll enjoy it every day and I think that’s the biggest thing for me.”

In his second full season of minor league baseball, Tebow batted a respectable .273 with six home runs, 14 doubles and 36 RBIs in 84 games for Double-A Binghamton last year. The left fielder socked a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw, then hit .301 in June and .340 in 15 games during July. He even doubled in the Eastern League All-Star Game on July 11.

Eight days later, however, he broke the hamate bone in his right hand while taking a swing. Season-ending surgery squashed any hope of a fast promotion to the majors.

“He did a tremendous job last year,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “You have to give him credit for the strides he made.”

They were evident Saturday during batting practice in a group that included top prospect Peter Alonso, a brawny slugger and fellow Florida Gators product.

“Means he’s pretty awesome,” said a smiling Tebow, who won two national football championships in college.

Tebow’s thick arms and muscular frame helped him launch several balls over the fence on a back field. He’s been working with personal hitting coach Jay Gibbons, an ex-major leaguer who traveled with Tebow throughout the offseason while he worked his other job as a college football television analyst.

Tebow said he took batting practice on countless college ballfields all over the country.

“It’s hard contact. I think I need to have a talk with him about his conditioning. He’s probably not strong enough,” Callaway cracked. “So yeah, it’s raw power, it’s real, and the bat moves through the zone pretty swiftly.”

“This kid has confidence, because he works. And I definitely see a baseball player out of Tim Tebow. Not just because he’s in a uniform, but because he wants it so bad,” the manager added.

At the souvenir stand between Tom Seaver Curve and Willie Mays Drive, No. 15 Tebow T-shirts were on sale for $32 along with those of several other players. Tebow’s shirt was gray, while the big leaguers were in blue.

“We’re just going to get him out there as much as possible,” Callaway said. “We want to get him out there and see major league pitching. And I know he’s going to continue to improve because that’s who he is.”

Regardless of whether he ever makes it to the majors, Tebow has come a long way in a short time on the diamond after spending 2010-12 in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and New York Jets. Remember, it was just a few years ago that he picked up baseball again for the first time since high school.

A national celebrity also popular for his charity work and outspoken faith, Tebow was laughed at and criticized when he embarked on his new career. Last spring, limited to at-bats as the designated hitter because of an ankle he said was broken, Tebow went 1 for 18 (.056) in seven games with the Mets before returning to minor league camp. He said the pain caused bad mechanics.

“It’s kind of hard to put into words how much more comfortable I feel, to be honest with you. Just in the little things. Shoot, in knowing what I’m going to grab to bring out there with me for practice, you know?” Tebow said. “Just playing catch, going through the motions, balls off the bat, off the wall, all of those things.”

And while some players bemoan the monotony of spring training, Tebow enjoys the workouts under the sun and inside the cage, always trying to improve.

“I love the grind of it. I love the challenge,” he said. “Even like for football with training camp, I loved it. I think I was kind of weird that way, but I embraced it. I kind of think I’m the same way with baseball.”

So even with revered ex-Florida coach Steve Spurrier pitching him a spot in the new Alliance of American Football, Tebow wasn’t interested.

“It wasn’t very hard — and they’ve called a lot. And Coach Spurrier keeps calling — and I love Coach Spurrier,” Tebow said. “I’m all in on baseball. No way could I stop and not give this the chance after everything that I’ve worked for.”

16 COMMENTS

    • While we can all agree he probably should have been out of the game, I’m not sure many would agree that ruined him. He went on to have some pretty special games after that. To play in the NFL a qb has to be able to throw anticipation passes and make super quick decisions. That was never Tebow’s forte’.

  1. You guys got to be kidding. First of all Tebow proved he could win in the NFL, and I don’t care how fast you could read defenses or anticipate passes winning is number one for QB’S in the NFL. And on top of that Tebow was doing this in only his second season, and nobody wanted to develop this champion??? Also quit blaming Meyer it’s not like the guy didn’t give us two Natty’s along with a Heisman and Dan Mullen. The man needs a statue at the Swamp.

    • Had U. Meyer let Cam Newton take over with UF in the red zone and up 20+ points at Ken. late in the 3rd quarter, Tebow would not have been concussed, and that third national championship would likely have been won. Tebow definitely knew how to win, and unlike self-indulgent kneelers, knew football is a team sport. He deserved better treatment in the NFL, which MLB hopefully gives him.

      • Derek, Daz, I have spoken poorly of U Meyer not for what he accomplished. He did a great job in the winning aspects of the team. He has/had the competitive spirit to win, sometimes at the expense of ethics and morals (those are subject to interpretation as everyone has their own standard) Meyer took the team to unprecedented heights for which that deserves gratitude. I believe his health issues (one of which is genuine) are exacerbated by his guilt over a flawed moral compass. Take Hernandez likely a pathologically flawed person and if what he was accused of is true had little remorse for his actions. Somehow I don’t think he felt guilt for what he did but couldn’t face life in prison for his actions. Meyer who has known of other issues and looked away suffered from anxiety and guilt build up over time. We are all flawed and make mistakes it is whether it was done without regard for others that got to him. A head coach now days isn’t just an X’s O’s guy. He is responsible for a program and all the management that goes with it. He would be a great tactician if that were all he had to do. He got us 2 NC and I had the time of my life at many of those games, but the state he left Florida in was inexcusable. Meyer could have done like in Ohio and left a staff in a good spot. I don’t like calling people liars though at times that may be true. But telling less than the truth over time requires more of the same to the point the wheels were coming off the wagon. I believe there was so much at the time the situation overwhelmed him. It was happening again in Ohio and either the AD, board, or Meyer chose the current path. If he made this decision on his own (a sign of learning and acceptance of his actions) then he will be coaching again, this time with a realization that doing the right thing isn’t maybe the fastest path to winning. Kinda like jumping out of a plane. The exit maybe great but you can’t f- up the landing.