“I think he will play in the major leagues. That’s my guess. That’s my hope and to some extent now after a year and a half, a modest expectation,” Alderson told reporters then. “I’m happy he’s here. I think he’s great for the team and great for baseball and was phenomenal for minor league baseball last year. The notion he should’ve been excluded from the game because he’s not coming through the traditional sources is crazy. This is entertainment too. He quietly entertains us.”
Let’s zero in on the first part of that quote. Through 50 games at the Double-A level this season, Tebow has a slash line of .244/.339/.372. He has struck out 70 times, four off the Eastern League lead. In fairness, he is hitting a robust .364 thus far in the month of June, but then you remember he will turn 31 next month, well-above the average age for a minor league player at this level.
Alderson may want a do-over on that Feb. 18 quote.
From the outset, Tim Tebow’s pro baseball journey was going to follow its own unique path. Making the move to baseball as a 29-year-old in 2016 was a bold step. Tebow had not played the game competitively since his junior year of high school. His athleticism provided Tebow with no guarantees, but after his first 162 games as a pro in baseball’s minor leagues, we look at where his career on the diamond has taken him so far.
Tebow came to the game after a career on the gridiron that saw him win a Heisman Trophy playing quarterback for the Florida Gators, and then help the Denver Broncos reach the playoffs in just his second season as a pro before ultimately washing out in the NFL. He played just two seasons with Denver and one with the Jets, failing to catch on with the Patriots and Eagles.
Now in his second season as a baseball player, has what some initially called a publicity stunt by the Mets developed into something more than that?
2016: The tryout, the deal and initial action
To get things started in August 2016, Tebow announced he would hold his own MLB tryout at the end of the month. On Aug. 30, that event at USC’s Dedeaux Field drew scouts from 28 of 30 teams.
What Tebow showed there drew quick rewards. On Sept. 8, he signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets. In a conference call announcing the deal, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson dealt with the initial questions about how seriously they took Tebow as a prospect, stating, “While I and the organization, I think, are mindful of the novel nature of this situation, this decision was strictly driven by baseball.”
Tebow followed up by taking his first cuts in instructional league with other Mets prospects on Sept. 28 — where he hits his first home run in his first game:
Tebow was subsequently assigned to the Arizona Fall League to play with and against some of the top prospects in baseball. He hit just .194/.296/.242 while striking out 20 times in 71 plate appearances (28 percent).
April 2017: Tebow takes the field as a Firefly
Tebow started the season in spring training with the big league club, but he struggled to connect in exhibition action, going 4-for-27 at the plate with no extra-base hits and eight strikeouts before getting reassigned to minor league camp. He finally made his regular-season debut playing at the lowest level among the Mets’ full-season farm teams in the South Atlantic League.
First game: April 6, 2017 for the Columbia Fireflies (low-A).
Final batting line with the Fireflies: .220/.311/.336 in 64 games.
June 2017: He’s a Met — a St. Lucie Met
Despite his weak hitting line in the Sally League, Tebow was promoted on June 25 to the Mets’ high-A Florida State League affiliate in St. Lucie. He initially swung a hot bat, putting together a 12-game hitting streak before eventually cooling off at the plate.
First game in high-A: June 28, 2017, for the St. Lucie Mets.
First home run in high-A: June 28, 2017, in the second game of a doubleheader, so he keeps a streak of first-day homers alive.
Final batting line as a (St. Lucie) Met: .231/.307/.356 with five home runs.
Tebow’s combined hitting line for 2017 winds up at .226/.309/.347 with 34 extra-base hits — eight of them home runs. Equally notable, Tebow proved to be a big draw at the gate, boosting attendance; the Florida State League seeing a 12 percent spike overall despite his playing just a half-season in the circuit.
At 30 years old, Tebow is the oldest hitter in the Eastern League, but in just his second season as a pro, he has also shown improvement and growth at the plate, and the pace seems to be picking up. Apparently fully healthy, he has hit .254/.333/.475 with three home runs in May. The question now is whether he can sustain that success, because that’s the kind of production that could earn a call up to the major leagues.
First game in Double-A: April 5, 2018 for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
First home run in Double-A: April 5, 2018 in his first game for the Rumble Ponies, so it’s still sort of a thing.
Batting line so far as a Rumble Pony: Tebow is hitting .240/.324/.405
Career line through 162 games: .229/.312/.359, 55 walks and 184 K’s in 551 at-bats, 30 doubles, three triples, 12 homers, 61 runs scored and 70 RBI.
Overview: Tebow vs. other two-sport players
Among recent hitters who have played both baseball and in another professional sports league, Tebow is starting to make his mark. He has 12 career home runs in the minor leagues so far, which is more than these equally notable two-sport pros during their minor league baseball careers:
• Michael Jordan (1994): 3 in 127 games, while hitting .202/.289/.266. • Ricky Williams (1995-1998): 4 in 170 games, hitting .211/.265/.261. • John Elway (1982): 4 in 42 games, hitting .318/.432/.464. • Russell Wilson (2010-2011): 5 in 93 games, hitting .229/.354/.356. • Danny Ainge (1978-1980): 6 in 226 games, hitting .237/.289/.289. • Bo Jackson (1986, 1991): 7 in 59 games, hitting .281/.373/.458.
The key number in that list is games played. Jackson wasn’t destined to be in the minors for long, nor was Ainge, as both logged considerable playing time in the major leagues. Williams and Wilson, not so much.
The really unusual name in the mix is Elway. The Hall of Fame quarterback spent part of one season in the New York-Penn League in with the Yankees’ organization before he was drafted first overall in the famous 1983 NFL draft; baseball was more of a fallback option and strengthened Elway’s demand for a trade away from the hapless Colts before he played a down as a pro.
Among notable two-sport players, Tebow has yet to catch up to these five — again, only in terms of their minor league career numbers:
• Deion Sanders (1988-2001): 19 in 253 games, hitting .286/.351/.433. • Brian Jordan (1988-2006): 22 in 226 games, hitting .292/.355/.449. • D.J. Dozier (1990-1993): 39 in 391 games, hitting .272/.365/.452. • Drew Henson (1998-2003): 67 in 501 games, hitting .248/.304/.424. • Chris Weinke (1991-1996): 69 in 716 games, hitting .248/.337/.381.
Four of those five players ultimately made it to the majors. Sanders and Brian Jordan had solid careers in both sports at the highest level, but each was better at one than the other — Sanders earned induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while Jordan was an All-Star and key player for the MLB Cardinals and Braves. Dozier and Henson barely surfaced in baseball, but they did at least make it to the Show.
Weinke’s career was the most unusual. He quit on baseball after six seasons as a Blue Jays farmhand, never reaching the majors and instead returning to college to play football, where he won the Heisman Trophy as a 28-year-old quarterback before playing six seasons in the NFL.
Former Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is attempting to switch from football to baseball after falling out of the NFL and spurning interest from the Canadian Football League and the Spring League.
After a bit of a rough patch, Tebow’s baseball stock is on the rise.
Playing for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, a Double-A affiliate of the New York Mets, Tebow has a batting average of .244 and a slugging average of .439 in 24 games. Amazing? No, but those are respectable numbers.
As Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio pointed out, Tebow’s improving numbers could justify a jump from minor league baseball to major league baseball — eventually. Before jumping to the majors, Tebow would likely jump to the Las Vegas 51s, the Triple-A affiliate of the Mets.
Right now, it looks like the former QB could last for awhile in baseball. If the experiment ever crashes and burns, though, Tebow has an offer on the table to return to the gridiron from the Alliance of American Football. The CFL would give him a roster spot as well.
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (AP) — Tim Tebow sure knows how to rise to the occasion.
Playing his first game in Double-A ball, New York Mets’ unique minor leaguer hit a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw. The ex-football star drew a huge ovation after connecting on a frigid Thursday night for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, who beat Portland 6-0 in their Eastern League opener.
“It’s pretty special and it feels really good,” a smiling Tebow said afterward. “It’s a great day and it was a fun day, but it’s just one day. We’ve got to be focused on the next day.”
Tebow has made that impression before. He also homered last April in his first at-bat with the Class A Columbia Fireflies of the South Atlantic League.
This time, the former Heisman Trophy winner at Florida and NFL quarterback sent a liner far over the fence down the right-field line as the announced crowd of 5,247 at NYSEG Stadium stood and cheered the 30-year-old outfielder.
The lefty-swinging Tebow capped a five-run first inning against righty Teddy Stankiewicz, a second-round draft pick by Boston in 2013. The Sea Dogs are a Red Sox affiliate.
Tebow finished 1 for 4. He grounded into a force play in the third inning, grounded out to shortstop in the fifth, and struck out swinging in the seventh.
“I’m trying to improve every single day, so to get off to a good start definitely gives you confidence,” Tebow said. “But baseball’s a game where it’s never too high, it’s never too low. It’s just one at-bat, just one pitch. You’ve got to stay focused.
“Tomorrow will be another day where I have to improve. I’ve got to get back in the cage and work … on all the things that I’ve been working on to try to improve.”
The frigid temperatures sent many fans home after Tebow’s third at-bat, apparently satisfied they got what they came to see.
Jeff Kellam and wife Joan, regulars from nearby Owego, stayed put until the end.
“I was pretty cynical,” he said. “There was a picture in the paper this morning of Tim Tebow and two other unidentified players. I thought, this is going to be kind of hard for the rest of the guys. The guy that got a two-run homer (Peter Alonso) — nobody’s going to talk about that tomorrow. I just want to be fair to the other players that have worked their way here, maybe even harder than he has.”
Tebow’s performance came far from the warmth of Florida where he became a household name on the gridiron. His Double-A debut came as snowflakes wafted through the evening air and temperatures hovered in the 30s.
All of the field-level box seats at NYSEG Stadium were sold on the blustery night, and although plenty of seats were empty, Tebow’s arrival lured Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon north from New York City to take a closer look at the organization’s most unusual prospect.
“He’s another ballplayer. I understand all the excitement because it’s Tim Tebow,” Wilpon said. “We look forward to having him perform and move up the system, which he’s doing. That’s why he’s here — moving up the chain.
“He did well last year in A ball. Now, he’s got to prove himself here and probably have to go to Triple-A at some point. “He’s a hard worker. He’ll do whatever he has to do to succeed.”
Tebow, who was not on the Mets’ 40-man major league roster, was re-assigned to the Rumble Ponies after going 1 for 18 (.056) with 11 strikeouts in seven big league exhibition games. He was hampered by a left ankle sprain and had been used solely as a designated hitter or pinch hitter.
Tebow started in left field against Portland and batted seventh. He was greeted with a nice round of applause at pregame introductions. The only glitch in his debut came when he ran into a chain-link fence chasing a fly ball in foul territory along the left field line in the third inning Thursday night, but he quickly shook it off.
When Tebow batted in the fifth, he worked the count full and the crowd began to chant his last name before he grounded out.
“Any time you have support, our entire team is feeling really good,” Tebow said. “It’s something our team really fed off.”
Tebow split last season, his first in the minor leagues, between a pair of Class A teams — Columbia, and St. Lucie in the Florida State League. He hit a combined .226 with eight homers and 52 RBIs in 126 games.
Early in spring training, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said he thought Tebow had the talent to make it to the big leagues. Alderson said the experiment wouldn’t last forever, but he remained optimistic because Tebow had made “meaningful progress.”
Joe Pochkar, a season ticket-holder from nearby Endwell, called Tebow’s arrival a win-win for an area along New York’s Southern Tier that’s been among the slowest regions of the state to recover from the financial crash a decade ago.
“He works very hard at his craft, and his passion and work ethic rub off on other players,” he said. “It’s more than just the ability. So he hits a buck seventy-five, if he gets all the other players with his passion and attitude and desire, it’s fantastic.”
“A lot of people rag on him for doing what he’s doing. This guy’s positive, he’s a nice guy, good for the community,” Pochkar said. “He’s 30. He took a long time off. Double-A separates the men from the boys. We’ll see.”
Binghamton’s unusual nickname comes from an area that bills itself as the “Carousel Capital of the World.” George F. Johnson of Endicott Johnson Shoe Co. fame donated several carousels to the area, and the ponies from a handful of carousels that still remain entertain kids today.
Regardless of the sport, Tim Tebow has a flair for the dramatic.
The 2010 first-round pick whose NFL career ended despite a memorable playoff run and postseason victory in 2011 continues to make the climb toward the Major Leagues. Despite batting 0.056 in spring training with the Mets, Tebow hit a home run in his first Double-A at bat.
It was also the first pitch in his first at bat.
Tebow is playing for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, and Thursday’s game lured Mets COO Jeff Wilpon to witness Tebowmania personally.
“He did well last year in A ball,” Wilpon said, via the Associated Press. “Now, he’s got to prove himself here and probably have to go to Triple-A at some point. “He’s a hard worker. He’ll do whatever he has to do to succeed.”
Mets G.M. Sandy Alderson has said that he believes Tebow eventually will play in the Major Leagues.
It was Binghamton’s turn to get a taste of the miracle man.
Tim Tebow hit a home run in his first at-bat with a Mets minor league team for the third time, with the outfielder connecting on a three-run shot on the first pitch of his Double-A Rumble Ponies debut Thursday. Tebow homered in his first plate appearance in April of last season with the Single-A Columbia Fireflies, before repeating the heroics in June with High-A St. Lucie.
The latest bomb earned Tebow loud cheers from the crowd and gave the Rumble Ponies a 5-0 cushion in the second inning of the home game.
Tebow, signed by the Mets in 2016 after flaming out of the NFL, had a disappointing major league spring training, when he batted .056 with 11 strikeouts in 18 at-bats, while battling an ankle injury. GM Sandy Alderson had escalated the team’s expectations for the 30-year-old, saying he believes Tebow will make it to the majors.
Tebow started this campaign with a promotion, after making it up to St. Lucie last year.