TRENTON, N.J. -- Despite Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes suiting up for visiting Double-A Binghamton to begin a rehabilitation assignment on Friday night, much of the standing-room-only crowd at Arm & Hammer Park had already purchased tickets to see Tim Tebow.
The former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback is in his second season in professional baseball after signing a Minor League deal with the Mets in 2017. Having played in 177 games entering Saturday, the novelty for fans has shown no signs of tarnish
"It definitely means a lot to have support," Tebow said. "I think it means even more to have a lot of youth groups, or groups for people with special needs that are involved with our Night to Shine, and stuff like that. I try to not get too high or low with how the fans respond."
After hitting .226 with eight homers and 52 RBIs between Class A Columbia and Class A Advanced St.Lucie last season, the 30-year old outfielder entered Saturday hitting .245/.339/.377 with four home runs and 21 RBIs in 51 games for Binghamton. Many talent evaluators view the Eastern League as a benchmark for prospects.
"I think that I have learned a lot," Tebow said. "I am also continuing to make those adjustments and learning to improve based on the pitchers, series, games, all of that. I think, as a hitter, you have to have a short memory and also continue to be able to learn. I think that I am improving every day. I still think that there are a lot of things that I know I will improve on, and can improve on, and I am making those strides every day.
"You can have good at-bats and get out, you can have bad at-bats and get hits. You have to constantly adjust and really be able to find that groove."
With a blossoming television career as an ESPN college football analyst in his grasp, what motivates a man who is nearly five years older than the average player in Double-A to entrench himself in the Minor League lifestyle that often includes six-hour bus rides, staying at motels and food that is less than exquisite?
"I think that it was something that was on my heart, and something that I am passionate about," Tebow said. "I have loved this adventure and the journey so far -- the highs and the lows of it. What it has taught me about life is that I think it is worth pursuing what is in your heart and things that you are passionate about."
While Tebow's promotion to Double-A was viewed as aggressive by some, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said during the offseason that he believes Tebow will eventually play in the Majors.
"That's [Alderson's] belief, and I appreciate his support," Tebow said. "For me, I've always believed in myself, and so I'm not going to stop now."
There is an obvious expectation for Tebow to make the Major League roster sooner rather than later, considering he will turn 31 in August. Tebow is not your typical prospect, as nothing about his baseball journey is typical. How will he know when it is time to call it quits if his big league aspirations are not realized in a timely manner?
"That is something that I will have to figure out -- pray about it and see where my heart is with everything," Tebow said. "It is hard to necessarily put a timetable. How do you put a timetable on dreams or ambitions or heart? So I think it is just looking at it and praying about it and figuring out what is best."