Tim Tebow: Still

living the dream

Let’s play word association. When you hear the name Tim Tebow, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

Heisman-winning quarterback at the Univer­sity of Florida? Former Denver Broncos quarterback who won a playoff game against Pittsburgh in overtime? Great all-around athlete who wasn’t good enough to stay in the NFL as a quarterback? Professional baseball player wannabe? All-around nice guy who lives his Christian faith? None of the above? All of the above?

Tebowmania was running rampant when Tebow played for the Broncos. But Denver and the rest of the NFL ultimately rejected him as a quarterback no matter how nice a guy he was or how hard he worked to fix his throwing motion.

Tebow turned briefly to becoming a TV football analyst until the competitive itch returned. Or, maybe it never left. In any case, he enjoyed athletic competition.

Tebow threw his hat back into the ring, or more accurately onto a baseball diamond. Never mind he hadn’t played competitive baseball since high school; he wanted to give it a shot.

The baseball experts mostly shrugged or laughed and saw the experiment as a publicity stunt. But that didn’t stop Tebow.

Some wrongly blame Tebow for taking the spot of a younger prospect. That’s hogwash, to put it nicely. There are plenty of opportunities for talented young athletes in the minors.

How many 29-year-old high-profile athletes would willingly start at the bottom of the baseball ladder and try to work their way up?

Some say Tebow still looks like a football player trying to play baseball. Although his .222 batting average with the low-A Columbia Fireflies provided critics with plenty of evidence that his chances of playing in the major leagues are slim to none, in June the New York Mets promoted Tebow to Class A Advanced St. Lucie, their third-highest ranked Minor League affiliate.

The one constant you hear about Tebow is that he’s a great team player who displays a strong work ethic.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson called Tebow an “outstanding” influence at Columbia, where he bought a ping-pong table for the clubhouse and befriended many of the team’s younger prospects.

Some of the Major League All-Stars are rooting for baseball’s most popular minor leaguer. Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon said, “I think Tim Tebow’s a great guy. I don’t really know him, but I think it’s a great story.”

Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado said, “I’m pulling for him, to be honest with you. I want him to do well; I don’t want to see him fail. You’re gonna fail in baseball because it’s baseball, but I wanna see him do well.”

Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer said, “I think it’s great for him to believe in his dream and try to follow it, try to get to the big leagues.”

And former Royals pitcher Wade Davis said, “Big Tebow fan. Get some, Tebow!”

One thing is clear: Tebow is good for the box office. When he showed up at the Mets’ instructional league complex last September, more than 400 fans circled the back fences and jostled for autograph position. Tebow-maniacs spent $120 on replica jerseys and reflected fondly on Tebow’s college days. A few parents even allowed their kids to skip school to watch Tebow shag fly balls and take batting practice.

According to Baseball America, the average Florida State League attendance this season is 1,404 per game. The smallest crowd for any of Tebow’s 63 games in the South Atlantic League was 2,645. So Tebow is sure to make the cash registers ring at his next stop.

Some view Tebow’s foray into baseball as a cash grab and a circus, but Rob Arthur says, “as a baseball player, Tebow may be unimpressive, but as a demonstration of the power of marketing, he is unsurpassed.”

What would have to happen for Tebow to get called up by the Mets when rosters expand in September? Stranger things have happened.

If Tebow makes it to Citi Field in New York next month, the Rockies’ Arenado said he would watch him. “I hope he goes deep four times in his first game, too.”

Hillsboro resident Joe Klein­sasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. You can reached him at Joe.Klein­sasser@wichita.edu.