Tebow ends Arizona Fall League campaign on high note

Mets outfielder reaches base three times in tie as Mesa clinches East

November 18th, 2016

MESA, Ariz. -- Tim Tebow ended the Arizona Fall League on a high note Thursday afternoon, reaching base a season-high three times as his Scottsdale Scorpions tied the Mesa Solar Sox, 6-6.

Mesa (16-15-1) won the East Division title when the Salt River Rafters (15-15-1) lost to the Surprise Saguaros (17-14-1) before the Solar Sox's game concluded. Mesa will meet Surprise in the AFL championship game at Scottsdale Stadium on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET, with MLB Network and MLB.com broadcasting the contest live.


Tebow lined a hard single to left field in his first at-bat and walked twice before striking out in his final plate appearance. The former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback finished the fall with a .194/.296/.242 line in 19 games, with three doubles, eight walks and 20 strikeouts in 71 trips to the plate.

"It was a lot of fun," Tebow said. "It was a great learning opportunity. I got the chance to work a lot and really improve. I've enjoyed the process."

While the odds are long that the 29-year-old Tebow will reach the big leagues after not playing baseball between his junior year of high school and signing with the Mets for $100,000 in September, he did show the ability to make adjustments during his time in the AFL. He was extremely pull-conscious when the season began, resulting in a lot of rolled-over groundouts to the right side of the infield. He went hitless in his first 13 AFL at-bats and batted just .135 in his first 11 games.

Once he started using the opposite field more, he enjoyed more success at the plate. He was never able to tap into his impressive raw power during game action, but he showed better plate discipline and made more contact than could have been expected. He hit .280/.438/.360 in his final eight games with nearly as many walks (six) as strikeouts (eight).

"I felt I improved every single week," Tebow said. "I feel good about the last week, walking away with four hits and three bases on balls in the last four games. I was pulling the ball a lot at first, and not the way you want to pull it, a lot of rollovers. I'm staying with pitches more now, going with them. I'm trying to get my foot down and hit the ball where it's pitched."

Tebow's baserunning and corner-outfield defense still need a lot of work, which is no surprise considering his lengthy layoff. He acknowledges he has a ways to go but also is pleased with how far he has come after six weeks of AFL play.

"I've felt way more comfortable the more I've gotten to deal with a lot of firsts," he said. "I experienced the sun in my face, the lights at night, left-handed pitching, right-handed pitching, playing left field and right field, making adjustments.

"I didn't really know what to expect out here. There are a lot of great arms, a lot of great talent. It gave me the opportunity to really learn a lot."

The Scorpions jumped out to a 5-0 lead after 5 1/2 innings, thanks in part to five stolen bases, including three by Tyler Wade (Yankees' No. 14) and a straight steal of home in the sixth by Champ Stuart (Mets), arguably the fastest player in the league. Stuart swiped another base in the eighth inning to tie Mesa's Greg Allen (Indians' No. 19) for the league lead with 12.

Though the outcome of the game only would have affected the playoff race had Salt River tied, the Solar Sox got back into it with four runs in the bottom of the sixth and tied it with two in the eighth. Bradley Zimmer (Indians' No. 1, No. 25 overall) doubled in the midst of both rallies, including nearly missing what would have been his fifth homer -- which would have tied him for the AFL lead with teammate Brian Anderson (Marlins' No. 4) -- when his eighth-inning drive hit near the top of the fence in right-center.

Scottsdale's (Yankees' No. 2, No. 17 overall) didn't play in the game and finished the season as the Fall League's youngest batting champion ever. The centerpiece of the package the Cubs put together for the trade with the Cubs in July, he hit .403/.513/.645 as a 19-year-old and earned accolades from scouts as the AFL's top prospect.