Tebow to represent Philippines in WBC qualifiers

First qualifier game is scheduled for March 20 vs. Czech Republic

February 26th, 2020

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Calling the opportunity “a really cool thing,” has agreed to play for the Philippines in 2021 World Baseball Classic qualifiers.

Tebow, a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who has spent the past four years as a Mets Minor League outfielder, was born in the Philippines. When the country’s national baseball team invited him to participate in WBC qualifiers, Tebow ran it past Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and manager Luis Rojas, who signed off on him leaving this year's Spring Training to play.

“I’ve just got such a heart for the Philippines,” Tebow said. “I’ve just really had a love for the people for a long time. To be able to represent them will be really cool -- really, really cool. You don’t get a lot of chances to represent people or places that mean something to you.”

Born in Manila to parents performing missionary work in the Philippines, Tebow remained in the country until just before his fifth birthday. He grew up in Florida but returned frequently to the Philippines as he became active in missionary work himself, spending at least three weeks there annually for nearly 15 years in a row. He also speaks a bit of Filipino language.

In 2014, Tebow opened the Tebow CURE Hospital in Davao City to “meet the physical needs and provide spiritual healing for deserving children in the Philippines who could not otherwise afford care,” according to the hospital’s website. The facility treats children with physical disabilities such as cleft lip, clubfoot and bowed legs.

“I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been back,” Tebow said, noting that his parents still have a ministry in the Philippines. “I’ve spent a lot of time. Love the people.”

The WBC qualifiers will take place in Tucson, Ariz., with the Philippines’ first game scheduled for March 20 against the Czech Republic. Those teams will compete with Great Britain, New Zealand, Panama and Spain for two spots in the 2021 WBC.

Teams that participated in the 2017 WBC -- like the United States, Japan and the Dominican Republic -- qualified automatically for the 2021 event. The WBC features looser eligibility standards than the Olympics, which require all players to be citizens of the countries they are representing. In contrast, the WBC allows American players meeting certain requirements to compete for their ancestral countries in the tournament. In Tebow’s case, his Filipino birth makes him eligible.

Although Tebow was a much-hyped football player throughout his high school and college career, he has never competed for the United States or the Philippines in international competition.

“I’ve gotten to play in a lot of cool sporting activities and big games, but this is the first one representing a country versus other countries,” Tebow said.

Tebow, who is in Mets Spring Training but is not expected to make the team, will likely be reassigned to Minor League camp before he leaves for WBC qualifiers. He is tentatively slated to open the regular season at Triple-A Syracuse, where he spent all last season before suffering a season-ending finger laceration on his left hand in July.

Overall, Tebow has hit .223 with 18 home runs in three Minor League seasons since joining the Mets. He is in his fourth consecutive Major League camp, and he is already enjoying more success in this one than the previous three. On Tuesday, Tebow homered for the first time in a big league uniform as he pursues a long-shot Major League dream.

“It would be a lie if I said that wouldn’t be super cool,” Tebow said of potentially playing in the Majors. “Of course, that would be something that would be special. But I wouldn’t say it would be a success or failure if that did or did not happen.”