PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Like most other camps in the big leagues, the Mets’ spring training complex is a divided operation.
One side is used by the major-leaguers, members of the 40-man roster and those invited to big-league camp. The other is occupied by the minor-leaguers, with their own separate clubhouse and schedules.
In that regard, Tim Tebow will be a sideshow.
When the former Heisman Trophy winner reports to camp Monday, he will give an introductory news conference and report to the Mets’ STEP camp, which essentially is an extended spring training for select minor-league prospects.
But that doesn’t mean the former NFL quarterback and sports-talk lightning rod won’t be getting his share of glare beneath the Florida sun.
In camp, it’s common for minor-leaguers to be borrowed by the big-league team, and manager Terry Collins reiterated that he wants Tebow to be among those to receive the honor. Indeed, Tebow could appear in a Grapefruit League game for the Mets.
“When they tell me that Tim’s had some at-bats, when he’s comfortable at the plate and comfortable with what he’s doing, I’ll get him over here,” Collins said.
General manager Sandy Alderson has bristled at criticism that Tebow’s presence is little more than a marketing ploy. He has framed the signing as providing an opportunity and also has noted that Tebow could bring a positive influence to the organization’s younger players.
“This game is about our fans,” Collins said. “It will always be about the fans. And this guy is a special person. He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s got a huge name in the sports world and he’s in our organization trying to be a baseball player, and I’m certainly not going to take anything away from that. I salute him for what he’s trying to do. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be very difficult. But he’s a tremendous competitor.”
Tebow, 29, hadn’t played baseball since high school, a span of more than a decade. But he went to instructional league while working as a college football analyst, then played in the Arizona Fall League. An outfielder, Tebow hit .194 and drew mostly unflattering evaluations from scouts. Alderson said he showed improvement.
Even before Tebow’s arrival day, his No. 15 Mets jersey has been for sale at the team complex. As for the potential for distraction, Collins believes the Mets have enough veteran players to handle the spotlight if Tebow does play in Grapefruit League games.
“Let me tell you something, those guys, when he walks in our clubhouse, they’ll let him have it,” Collins said. “They’re not afraid. Of course, he’s a little bigger [physically] than they are. But it’s a tremendous clubhouse and I know they’ll reach out and try to make him feel at home.”
Not that Collins will see much of Tebow, one of dozens of minor-leaguers who will flood into the complex in the coming days.
Said Collins: “Right now, we’ve got enough going on on this side of the field.”
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