BINGHAMTON, N.Y.- The fans lining the first-base line an hour before game period on a recent Monday night here were not waiting for one of the New York Mets’ top Double-A prospects or a major leaguer on a rehab assigning. They were hoping to glimpse the 30 -year-old outfielder batting eighth for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies: Tim Tebow.
The road to the major league usually does not have an open lane for 30 -somethings who are three years removed from a brief professional career in a different sport–the NFL–and 11 years past their Heisman Trophy glory. Yet Tebow maintains plugging away in baseball’s minor league on the idea that he can one day get to the majors.
“There’s so many other things that I could be doing that are a lot more money-driven and fame-seeking, ” Tebow said in an interview last week. “But when I’m 50 -years-old, that’s not going to matter. What matters is pursuing a passion and doing something that’s in your heart.”
“There’s so many other things that I could be doing that are a lot more money-driven and fame-seeking. But when I’m 50 years old, that’s not going to matter. What matters is seeking a passion and doing something that’s in your heart.”
Tebow is not alone in thinking he might one day get the call up. Fulfills general manager Sandy Alderson has said Tebow is a real prospect and hopes he will one day play in the major leagues. His agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, tells Tebow reached four days per week in the off-season, flying batting teachers to whatever city he was in.
Tebow is off to a modest start this season with the Mets’ Double-A affiliate. He’s reaching. 240 on the season with a. 324 on-base percentage and four home run. But that hasn’t stifled the exuberance of the river of Tebow fans trekking to Binghamton.
“I think he’ll induce the big leagues, ” said Jarrod Lunde, a 15 -year-old from Daytona Beach, Fla ., who visited earlier this month with a Tebow New York Jets photograph for him to sign.
To get there, Tebow will have to maneuver past players who are several years younger and have thousands more professional at-bats under their belts. Tebow and the Rumble Ponies reaching coach, Valentino Pascucci, say he requires more reps, more at-bats, more games, more time in the outfield.
The single most impressive thing Tebow has done so far is display power. His 6-foot-3, 245 -pound chiseled frame helps him generate at-bat speed and launching: He explosion a two-run homer on his first day in high-Class A. This season, he made a three-run shot on the first pitching he saw.
During batting practice lately, he belted two baseballs off the scoreboard in right centre. A few hours later, with the Ponies down 5-2, there was loud applause when he came to bat. Phones came out to capture the moment. He teed off on a 2-0 fastball and reached a 402 -foot home run to tie the game.
“You watch him take batting practise, there’s no doubt about his power, ” told Pascucci, a former Met who has known Tebow since he signed with the Mets in September 2016.
“You watch him take batting practise, there’s no doubt about his power.”
None of this is entirely new to him. Tebow played baseball until his senior year of high school, when he quit to focus on football. After a stellar career at Florida that ended in 2009, Tebow was selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft and signed a five-year deal that guaranteed him $8.7 million. He was traded to the New York Jets in 2012 and spent brief stints with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, but he was released before the 2015 season. He finished with a career record of 8-6 as a starting quarterback.
Tebow has since contributed to ESPN broadcasts, written an autobiography, grow his charity foundation and started playing professional baseball. When he began, it had been 11 years since he faced live pitching. Tebow recognise last week that he had a long way to go. Asked what model bat he uses, he smiled and looked at the cameras facing him in a news conference.
“I have no clue, ” he said with a laughter. “I’m still new to this.”
During spring training this year, Tebow peppered big league teammates like Jay Bruce and David Wright with questions. He asked center fielder Juan Lagares about his routes to fly balls. He spoke with pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom about how they attack hitters. He texts former MLB sluggers Frank Thomas, Gary Sheffield and Ken Griffey Jr. for pointers.
“Gary will text me,’ I just watched that at-bat. Get this down, ’” Tebow says.
Tebow says he’s getting better with his leaps, especially when left-handed batters hit balls that tail. He’s learning to track baseballs near the outfield wall. He’s fine-tuning his two-strike approach, because he strikes out a lot.
Being Tim Tebow, he is still attracting attention for his charisma and devout Christianity.
His walk-up song is “Whom Shall I Fear, ” by Chris Tomlin, a Christian artist. On his at-bat is the Bible verse John 16:33 .
He navigates the Eastern League with the courteous poise of a professional celebrity. He locks eyes with many of the fans for whom he signs paintings and baseballs, reflexively repeating “Nice to meet you” and “You’re so welcome.”
He doesn’t simply get attention from fans. Resisting players ask about his college football days. When he’s at second base, infielders have told him that they found his book encouraging. Michael McHugh, the visiting clubhouse administrator for the Portland Sea Dogs, said he was struck by how many times Tebow thanked him.
Rumble Ponies general manager John Bayne told attendance is only slightly up over the same period last season because the weather has been lousy. The reception away from Binghamton has been stronger, however. One team played the Florida Gators fight song when he approached the plate. In Hartford, Conn ., near ESPN headquarters, Tebow’s on-air colleagues Scott Van Pelt, Trey Wingo, Mike Golic and Matthew Berry cheered him on as the Rumble Ponies played the Hartford Yard Goats.
In the end, what he’s doing now may not entail much. He could quit the game. But perhaps Tebow is pushing a reassessment of his baseball dream.
“This is not something that you pick up after 12 years that comes to you that fast, ” Tebow said as he looked out to the field from the Rumble Ponies dugout. “But I feel like I’m adjusting, I’m getting there. This is something that I truly love.”
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