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Tebow headlines Mets' spring camp NRIs

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- Tim Tebow is about to receive his most significant exposure yet to top-level baseball competition. The Mets announced Friday that they have invited Tebow to Major League Spring Training, giving the former college and professional football star another opportunity to stride forward in his baseball career.

Tebow is among 13 non-roster invitees to Spring Training -- a list that also includes blue-chip first-base prospect Peter Alonso (ranked as the Mets' No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline) former Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton and Drew Smith, the reliever the Mets acquired for Lucas Duda last July.

NEW YORK -- Tim Tebow is about to receive his most significant exposure yet to top-level baseball competition. The Mets announced Friday that they have invited Tebow to Major League Spring Training, giving the former college and professional football star another opportunity to stride forward in his baseball career.

Tebow is among 13 non-roster invitees to Spring Training -- a list that also includes blue-chip first-base prospect Peter Alonso (ranked as the Mets' No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline) former Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton and Drew Smith, the reliever the Mets acquired for Lucas Duda last July.

But the most significant number of eyes will surely follow Tebow, as they did a year ago when the Mets -- citing a need for outfielders, though general manager Sandy Alderson later admitted that his motivations at least partially had roots in the "entertainment business" -- frequently borrowed him for Grapefruit League games. Tebow hit .148 in nine such contests, going on to bat .226 with eight home runs over two Minor League levels. Following a successful debut at Class A Columbia, Tebow ended his season with Class A Advanced St. Lucie.

"I think he's exceeded a lot of people's expectations," Alderson said during the summer.

The former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at the University of Florida drew rave reviews for his plate discipline and power, putting on batting practice shows during Spring Training. He took so many practice cuts early in the year that his hands bled, calloused over and bled again. But it wasn't all storybook stuff; Tebow also struck out in 26 percent of his professional plate appearances and was raw on defense, his overall numbers overshadowing his clear improvement over the course of the season.

"It's not the grind of football, where you're like, 'Dang, some days I don't know if I can get out of bed,'" Tebow said during a midsummer interview. "This is more of a monotonous, every day, having to lock in with that focus. It's the awareness every day to make sure you're not just trying to get by, but you're getting better."

There is no end date for Tebow's flirtation with baseball. He remains active in his role as a football analyst for the SEC Network and with his foundation, which has raised millions for disabled orphans and children battling life-threatening diseases. For now, the Mets appear willing to accommodate Tebow for as long as he is willing to play.

But his prospects as a potential Major Leaguer remain dim. Now 30 years old, Tebow is at an age when many successful big leaguers' careers begin to wane. Still, the Mets often cited Tebow as a capable mentor for teammates a decade younger than him, considering his history of success on significant stages.

"I love what I'm doing," Tebow said last year. "And when you have a chance to love what you do and you're passionate about it, it's fun. You don't wake up and go, 'Man, I've got to go face this day.' You go, 'I'm excited about this day.' And that's a good feeling."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

New York Mets