Tebow (that's right) homers for 1st spring hit

February 25th, 2020

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Tim Tebow has never minded the Minor League grind, riding buses across the Southeastern United States despite his obvious international celebrity. So it was nothing unusual for Tebow when the Mets sent him on a five-hour round-trip ride across Florida on Tuesday, for their 9-6 loss to the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla.

The trip also proved to be well worth it. In addition to hitting his first home run in four big league camps as a Met, Tebow enjoyed an inspirational conversation with former National League MVP . Like Tebow’s father, Bob, Gibson is battling Parkinson’s disease.

“He was just encouraging me, saying some nice things,” Tebow said of Gibson, a special advisor in Detroit’s front office. “It was nice of him.”

That capped a banner day for Tebow, whose home run was his first career extra-base hit in a big league uniform. The two-run shot off Tigers veteran was also his first home run of any kind since last July.

“I had a chance to see a few [pitches], and just tried to be tight and on time,” said Tebow, who also walked twice in Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. “It feels really good. I feel like I’m seeing the ball pretty good.”

Tebow, 32, signed with the Mets as a Minor League free agent in September 2016. He has been to big league camp every spring since, going 9-for-60 (.150) in his first three years of Grapefruit League play. Those numbers aside, Tebow has steadily improved throughout his Minor League career, hitting .273/.336/.399 with six home runs at Double-A Binghamton to make the 2018 Eastern League All-Star team.

A broken wrist prematurely ended his season that year, and a deep finger laceration cut his campaign short in 2019, after Tebow hit just .163/.240/.255 with four home runs at Triple-A Syracuse. But he came into 2020 Spring Training healthy, in excellent shape and committed to keeping his big league dream alive.

“The raw power is just phenomenal,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said earlier this spring. “The good athlete that he is, and as coachable as he is, he’s going to keep improving in every area.”

While he does, Tebow has made it his mission to use baseball -- like he once used football -- as a platform for good. Just before reporting to Spring Training, Tebow held his annual “Night to Shine” event in 34 countries and all 50 states. He also took part in the Mets’ Special Olympics clinic in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Tebow revealed publicly in 2016 that his father, Bob, is battling Parkinson’s disease -- a year after Gibson announced his own diagnosis. Tebow has called his father, who occasionally attends Mets Spring Training games, an inspiration for much of the philanthropic work that he does.

“If all we did was try to play and win or lose a game, then it still doesn’t matter,” Tebow said. “But if you can transcend that, the platform that you’re given with football or baseball or something, and you can take that to inspire or change or encourage another life, then you did something that truly matters, in my opinion. And that’s ultimately something that I want to have in my life.”