NEW YORK -- Ten days from now, Tim Tebow will report to the Mets' Spring Training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., alongside dozens of teenagers, hoping to make a career in professional baseball.Tebow is not a teenager, but he is a professional baseball player, however unlikely that may once
NEW YORK -- Ten days from now, Tim Tebow will report to the Mets' Spring Training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., alongside dozens of teenagers, hoping to make a career in professional baseball.
Tebow is not a teenager, but he is a professional baseball player, however unlikely that may once have seemed. The Mets on Thursday signed the 29-year-old former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy Award winner to a Minor League contract, the first step in what Tebow hopes will lead to a Major League career.
"I just get to go pursue my passion, do what I love," Tebow said. "I get to pursue this awesome game of baseball. I'll give everything I have to it."
To succeed, Tebow will need to overcome long odds. That process begins Sept. 18 in instructional league, which is typically used for younger players to work on their skills prior to the offseason. If all goes well, Tebow could advance to the Arizona Fall League and winter ball, and eventually to a Minor League affiliate next April. But the Mets are keeping his timeline as fluid as possible, refusing to commit to any singular path.
For now, they are simply enjoying a relationship that, even if all does not go well, they feel can be symbiotic.
"I understand this is not a typical situation," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "We understand that he hasn't been around the game for a while. We understand he's 29 years old. We understand he's a tremendous competitor and is going to be a tremendous -- I think -- role model for the players in our system. This is an opportunity to associate with excellence."
Tebow has not played competitive baseball since 2005, his junior year at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Fla., where he was a three-sport standout in football, basketball and baseball. Quitting the latter sport to pursue football, Tebow recently said, was the second-hardest decision he's made in life, behind only selecting the University of Florida over the University of Alabama.
But Tebow thrived at Florida, leading the Gators to two national titles and winning the 2007 Heisman Trophy Award -- college football's top player honor. He became the Denver Broncos' first-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, leading them to a division title in '11. Along the way, Tebow polarized fans because of his success on the field despite a lack of textbook skills and mechanics, as well as an outspoken acknowledgement of his Christian faith. At the height of Tebow's success as a football player, his "Tebowing" touchdown prayer was ubiquitous.
Following Tebow's second season in Denver, the Broncos traded him to the New York Jets to make room for Peyton Manning. Tebow has not made a full-time roster since, though he attended training camp with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 and '15, respectively. Had then-Eagles coach Chip Kelly not called last year, Tebow said he would have pursued baseball at that time. Instead, he continued a fledgling broadcasting career, including work as an SEC Network football analyst that he will continue to do via excused absences from Mets camp.
The rebirth of Tebow's baseball career unfolded on Aug. 30, when he held a workout for 28 big league teams at the University of Southern California. Initially, Alderson laughed off Tebow's interest in baseball, alluding to it as a publicity stunt. But over the ensuing weeks, Alderson changed his mind.
"We are extremely intrigued with the potential Tim has," Alderson said of a player who profiles as a power-hitting outfielder. "He has demonstrated over his athletic career that he is a tremendous athlete, has great character, a competitive spirit. Aside from the age, this is a classic player-development opportunity for us. … The idea that any one player has no chance to make it to the big leagues, I reject."
"I would consider success giving everything I have," Tebow said. "I would consider success putting in the work, and looking back on this opportunity and this journey 10, 15, 20 years from now, and saying I did everything I could to be everything I could be."
While Alderson is interested in what he called "more than rudimentary" baseball skills, including the type of raw power that allowed him to hit five home runs during two rounds of showcase batting practice -- one shot to soared above Dedeaux Field's scoreboard in right-center field, landing at least 400 feet from home plate on the top level of a nearby parking garage -- the Mets' GM circled back consistently to what Tebow might be able to provide off the field.
Brodie Van Wagenen, Tebow's agent, who also represents Mets stars Yoenis Céspedes and Jacob deGrom, alluded to the "common goals and common beliefs" that Tebow and the Mets share. Even if Tebow does not succeed as a Minor League baseball player, the Mets feel he will have a positive impact on their organization.
"We understand that most players don't make it to the Major Leagues," Alderson said. "But aside from Tim's age and his absence from the game over a period of time -- which everyone will point to as a reason why he can't make it -- there are four or five other reasons that can be cited for why he will make it. So I think in our case, we want to find out."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.