PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Last autumn, former University of Florida football coach Steve Spurrier reached out to Tim Tebow with what the latter described as an "awesome" and "humbling" offer: Come play quarterback for a team in the fledgling Alliance of American Football, an upstart league that debuted this
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Last autumn, former University of Florida football coach Steve Spurrier reached out to Tim Tebow with what the latter described as an "awesome" and "humbling" offer: Come play quarterback for a team in the fledgling Alliance of American Football, an upstart league that debuted this month. Multiple times, Spurrier called. Multiple times, Tebow respectfully declined.
"It wasn't very hard," Tebow said Saturday afternoon, upon reporting to Mets camp for his third Spring Training. "I'm all in on baseball."
Those who once dismissed Tebow's transition from NFL quarterback to professional baseball player are officially on notice. Tebow is an outfielder first these days, the evidence plain to see in his slimmed-down body and shortened swing.:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Traveling around the country this offseason to fulfill his football broadcasting commitments, Tebow sought out batting cages at the campuses he attended. He hired a personal hitting coach, former Orioles and Dodgers outfielder Jay Gibbons, who traveled with him each weekend. During the Sugar Bowl, an ESPN camera caught Tebow, in a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled halfway up his forearms, pantomiming his baseball swing in a Superdome luxury box.
"I definitely see a baseball player out of Tim Tebow," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "Not just because he's in a uniform, but because he wants it so bad."
What former Mets general manager Sandy Alderson once called a product of the entertainment industry has become a true athletic endeavor. Upon his arrival in Port St. Lucie, Tebow, now 31 years old and slated to break camp at Triple-A Syracuse, called this "sort of the biggest Spring Training for me."
The truth is, had Tebow not broken the hamate bone in his right hand last July, he could have cracked the Majors already. With the Mets out of contention last summer and Tebow enjoying an All-Star season in Double-A, it seemed plausible, if not downright likely, that the Mets would call him up when rosters expanded in September. Tebow's injury and subsequent surgery prevented team officials from ever seriously discussing his promotion, but he was fully healed well in advance of his second consecutive big league camp.
"To be honest, it's really enjoyable," Tebow said. "I love the whole process. I love training this morning, going to practice, hitting in the cage before practice, just all of it. I love the grind of it. I love the challenge.
"No way could I stop and not give this the chance after everything that I've worked for."
Unlike Alderson, who stated in no uncertain terms last spring that he expected Tebow to play in the big leagues, Callaway offered a more measured take, referencing how difficult it is for any player to achieve that goal.
"There have been so few Major League players in the history of the game since the mid-1800s," Callaway said. "To predict anybody's going to play in the Major Leagues is tough for me. But I know that Tim Tebow, on a daily basis, is going to do everything he can to put himself in the best position to play in the big leagues."
If he doesn't, Tebow insists, he'll enjoy the journey. Asked Saturday about ignoring his critics -- and there are many -- Tebow launched into a minute-and-a-half soliloquy about "not letting other people define you." His Mets career has given him another platform for his charitable endeavors, including his "Night to Shine" event that, this year alone, hosted more than 100,000 special needs children in 24 countries. He'll be just fine whether he makes it to the big leagues or not.
"Shoot," Tebow said, "I've already enjoyed it enough to say it's worth it."
But Tebow is a baseball player now, and baseball players generally have one goal. His is no different.
"I've never been there, so I can't tell you exactly what it takes," Tebow said of making the big leagues. "I just know that I'm giving it everything that I have every day."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.