JUPITER, Fla. — The chatter began well before first pitch on Wednesday, triggered by the mere notion of his presence. In crowded elevators, in line on the concourse, in the seats next to the field, fans wondered what they would get from Tim Tebow.
In what is likely his final Grapefruit League game this season, the former Heisman Trophy winner delivered his best performance yet. Starting in rightfield in a 6-2 loss to the Marlins, Tebow went 2-for-3 with a leaping catch at the warning track that brought a warm ovation from a largely supportive crowd at Roger Dean Stadium.
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“I think I’ve had fun every game, genuinely, but I think this one there was a lot of action,” said Tebow, speaking to reporters for the first time since he and the team instituted a media blackout. “That’s also fun. You like being involved.”
After the game, manager Terry Collins said Tebow’s remaining action will come in minor league games, ending his appearances with the big league club. It echoed an announcement he made last Friday, before a change of heart that saw Tebow appear in three more games.
“He’s getting better,” Collins said. “That was the point. That’s why he’s here to see if he can make some strides. And he’s made some very good strides.”
Tebow’s first knock came with the assist of the official scorer, who ruled it a hit when third baseman Derek Dietrich got handcuffed by a grounder. But Tebow came to bat in the fifth inning and collected an indisputable hit.
Tebow ambushed a first-pitch fastball from righthander Stephen Fife. Trackman measured it at 107 mph off the bat, a big league line drive. After a few missteps in his tenure with the big league team, Tebow had for a moment looked like the baseball player he aspires to be. His average at the end of the day: .214 (3-for-14).
“It feels good you know, to just be able to have an approach, to have a thought process and work on the fundamentals,” Tebow said. “And not always trying to focus on the results and just the process, and what I’m looking for and how I’m approaching it.”
But Tebow’s most memorable moment may have come in the bottom of the fifth, when he tracked down a J.T. Realmuto liner to rightfield. Once he reached the warning track, Tebow jumped to bring down the drive, flashing the athleticism that brought him to the NFL.
“The wind was blowing extremely hard to the corner, so you knew it was going to carry a little bit farther,” Tebow said. “I was just trying to get as good of a jump on it as possible. I tried to extend and get it at the end.”
Outfielder Brandon Nimmo received encouraging news from doctors. He initially believed that his injury suffered in the World Baseball Classic might sideline him for two weeks. But Nimmo was set to test the hamstring on Wednesday . . . Michael Conforto played centerfield for the third time this spring.