PHOTO CREDIT: DenverPost.com
As a passionate fan of the New York Mets, I think I might have been the only fan overjoyed in the fact that Tim Tebow, former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, signed with the boys from Queens in the fall of 2016. In fact, I wrote a big piece on the matter back then: http://professional3.tumblr.com/post/150123524269/why-im-for-tim-tebow-with-the-mets-sotim-tebow
So when Tebow played in his first official Spring Training game yesterday in a Mets split-squad game against the Red Sox, I was genuinely excited. Sadly, I was caught at work, and since no radio was available for the game, I was forced to stick with Twitter for constant updates. Thankfully, YouTube saved the day for me later on that night.
Tebow, wearing #97, went 0-3 with 2 strikeouts, grounded into a double play and a Hit By Pitch. He was also picked off first base in a base-running gaffe. Not necessarily a banner first ever appearance in Spring Training. In fact, a lot of people, save the fans in attendance, weren’t happy to see Tebow through the mainstream and social media outlets, practically calling him a joke.
Yet, I was impressed.
For once, I am not coming across as a bonafide Tebow fan boy. I’m talking realistically about how he came off yesterday, to me, at the plate. A lot of people can laugh at whatever they want as it comes to him, but I saw a few things that I enjoyed watching from the Spring Training debut of Tebow.
POISE: People see two strikeouts on the box score and automatically believe that Tebow looked overmatched or overwhelmed. I entirely disagree. In his crouching stance at the plate, Tebow looked motivated. People seemingly forget that the first batter he faced was the reigning 2017 AMERICAN LEAGUE CY YOUNG WINNER RICK PORCELLO. Tebow definitely did not look like he showed fear.
On the 1-1 count, Porcello threw a fastball down the middle and practically dared him to hit it. Tebow took a cut and missed. However, you saw the power that Tebow had behind the swing. As alluded to in my previous piece, “However, the raw power is what got the highest notoriety, with Mr. (Taylor Blake) Ward tweeting that another unnamed NL scout grading Tebow an 80.”
Every time at the plate, in spite of his struggles on Wednesday, Tebow had strong cuts at the plate. His strength might be the main positive in his foray into baseball. I genuinely did not get the vibe of fear from him at the dish and, in fact, saw glimpses of confidence. The poise Tebow possessed at the plate was very telling.
MAKING CONTACT: Before the game, I was joking with friends texting and saying that if Tebow made bat on ball contact during the game, it would be a success. During his second at-bat against Noe Ramirez in the fourth inning, Tebow fouled off a pitch into the stands down the left field line. A few pitches after that, Tebow grounded into a 4-6-3 double play; however got the Lucas Duda run across to make things 4-4 and tie the game.
People made fun of that fact? Tebow succeeded. SUCCEEDED. A lot of casual and hardcore baseball fans expected Tebow to strikeout every time at the dish. It did not happen. A little thing like making contact and overcoming what the critics have been saying is a positive. In baseball strategy, Tebow sacrificed two outs for a run. It doesn’t matter because it’s Spring Training, but in the mental and physical makeup of an athlete, that does wonders for confidence and allows him to believe that he could do it again. The groundout, as simple and unimpressive as it was, did enough for me.
COMPETITIVE FRUSTRATION: This might be a little odd, but I’ll elaborate.
Tim Tebow is a former NFL quarterback. The man, in spite of what people think, has won a playoff game as a member of the Denver Broncos. He won the Heisman Trophy as a member of the Florida Gators. Everywhere he has gone, the respect as a hard worker is always given, but never as a solid athlete. There are times where I’ve felt that Tebow’s positive virtues and convictions have made him look bigger than the sport. Hell, I even feel that the overblown coverage ESPN has given him really makes him stand out more as a distraction than a player to a franchise. The Mets signing of him, for publicity or not, is no different.
So when I watched the entire game of Tebow striking out against Porcello in his first AB, I admired that he said some words to the umpire, because the pitch did look a wee bit outside. When Tebow grounded into the double play, he did technically get the run across, but after his hustle up the first base line, he showed frustration he couldn’t make more of the opportunity afforded to him with the bases loaded and no outs. When he was caught flat-footed and doubled off first base, you saw the frustration showered on his face and how disappointed he was.
That’s an important quality to have. Tebow, like it or not, is a competitor. His achievements stand by themselves. I genuinely believe he has enough potential to make something happen. Fans and baseball purists could believe this is just for publicity and ticket sales, but I think there is something more to this Tebow thing. The man is a competitor. He is an alpha male athlete. I might be the only one to say it, but I saw his frustration come through on Wednesday and it was the best thing for him. This will fuel him to try and build off this first appearance. He’s a top level athlete. I think people need to realize it.
Jay Bruce, in a NY Post article by Dan Martin, had the most honest assessment of Tebow from Wednesday. “No one knows how this is gonna work out yet, but from what I saw today, he’s here to work. He’s so far behind on the nuances of the game. It’s not like he’s been wasting his time. He’s been doing other worthwhile things. But that’s the biggest thing: playing, 1. And 2, just understanding the game of baseball at the highest level is tough. It takes a long time.”
Bruce’s comments have allowed me, as an Angry Mets Guy, to make the following statement: Tim Tebow will be on a Major League roster in two years. It won’t be overnight or this year. By 2019, Tebow will be the 25th man on a MLB roster, Mets or not. It’s a tough game and it’s a long road, but at 31 years old, Tebow Time will persevere on a MLB roster.
Wednesday was why I believe. As a Met fan, “Ya Gotta Believe”. And I still believe in Tim Tebow.