By and large, the Major League industry reaction to the news Tuesday that Tim Tebow wants to give professional baseball a shot was what one would expect it to be. There was some snark, some shrugs, some cynicism and some dismissal of it all as a "publicity stunt."Baseball is not
By and large, the Major League industry reaction to the news Tuesday that Tim Tebow wants to give professional baseball a shot was what one would expect it to be. There was some snark, some shrugs, some cynicism and some dismissal of it all as a "publicity stunt."
Baseball is not an easy sport to embrace at age 29 and following an exaggerated -- in this case, a dozen years -- layoff. We saw that when an NBA legend tapped out after a year in Double-A.
"Tim Tebow should talk to Michael Jordan," one National League scout said.
Tebow once engendered similar media fascination as Jordan -- unfortunately without anywhere near the same results at the highest level. With his quarterback career having flamed out, Tebow's agents are arranging a showcase for Major League scouts expected to take place sometime this month.
"Like anything else," another NL executive said, "you approach it with an open mind and not a ton of expectations."
Amid all the skepticism about the Te-ball experiment was at least one voice of optimism. Not so much related to Tebow's career itself but for the sporting world at large, and what a high-profile athlete making a move like this could demonstrate to others.
"So many of your shortstops, center fielders and pitchers that are also quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs leave the game of baseball because of the time and financial investment involved," an American League scouting director said. "I wish many of them would do what Tim Tebow is doing and come back to the sport of baseball -- but at a much earlier age. I also wish we could set up second-chance programs for those players to get some of them back on the baseball field once they realize football isn't going to work out for them. In the age of 'win now' in college baseball, the risk is too high for coaches and roster spots are taken."
Common sense would seem to indicate this shift is coming far too late for Tebow. Scouts surveyed suggested that if there were any way for a late-in-life adaptation to professional ball to work even for an elite athlete, it would be as a pitcher, and that, too, is murky. If Tebow's throwing mechanics were so unconventional behind center, what would they look like on the mound?
But Tebow, who hit .494 as a junior at Nease High in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., in 2004, is trying to prove he can cut it as a position player, trying to prove the raw power -- power that possibly would have gotten him drafted as, at the very least, a late-round flyer, had he not made a full-fledged dive into football his senior year -- can still translate.
"No way he can hit higher-level pitching with any consistency," an NL scout said.
Tebow has trained for the past few months in Scottsdale, Ariz., and in Los Angeles, and the announcement of his intentions was accompanied with various testimonials from fellow Creative Artists Agency clients and ESPN coworkers. His agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, said in a statement that Tebow's "tool set is real" and that his work ethic is "unprecedented."
Perhaps the most interesting voice who showed his support via his infrequently utilized Twitter feed came from former slugger Gary Sheffield, who in recent years has tried to carve out a new niche for himself as a player agent. We don't yet know if there is a direct connection between Sheffield's interests and those of Tebow, but in the meantime, we have this:
Right now, such advertising is all we have, until Tebow takes the field in front of scouts with meaningful opinions.
"I hope he does well, because our game needs more guys like him playing it -- leaders, difference makers, guys that will put team over self," the AL scouting director said. "I also hope this is a message to all young two-sport players to do whatever they can to keep playing baseball as long as they can."
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.