TRENTON, N.J. — The 6,000-seat Arm & Hammer Park pales in comparison to the 90,000-seat behemoths of Southeastern Conference football, and the stakes in Wednesday night’s Eastern League All-Star Game were nothing compared to the NFL playoffs.
Tim Tebow was there anyway for the latest chapter in a wild career that included a Heisman Trophy, two national championships and a roller-coaster stint in the NFL before he turned to baseball and signed with the Mets in 2016.
“It was a great honor and something I really appreciated,” Tebow said of his all-star selection. He batted ninth as the Eastern Division’s designated hitter, hitting a double his first time up and going 1-for-4.
“It was really fun,’’ he said. “I think everybody really enjoyed it. I thought the atmosphere was great. I felt good at the plate. I think I put together a lot of good swings and felt ‘on’ a lot of pitches.”
Although he has not dominated Double-A baseball the way he did as an SEC quarterback, he generally has held his own for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. He is hitting .270 with a .337 on-base percentage, .390 slugging percentage and five home runs in 76 games in his second season in pro baseball.
Tebow, 30, was last on an NFL roster during the 2015 preseason, and said the transition from football to baseball has required major changes in how he trains.
“I think even last year, being my first year in baseball, I still didn’t know how my body was adjusting to playing every day for 150 games in a row, versus trying to get ready for 16 Sundays,” he said. “This year, I think I prepared a lot better and my body has adjusted and been a little more steady throughout.”
Tebow did not play baseball at the University of Florida, so his stint in the Arizona Fall League in 2016 was his first foray into organized baseball since his junior season at Nease High School near Jacksonville in 2005. He spent the 2017 season in Class A and High A, hitting a combined .226 with a .309 on-base percentage and eight home runs.
The results have been better this season despite the higher level of competition, but Tebow said he remains focused on improving, rather than thinking about a potential late-season call-up to the majors.
“I can’t worry about any of that,” he said of the possibility of being the first player to appear in both the MLB and NFL regular season since Drew Henson (Yankees, 2002 and 2003, and the Cowboys and Lions, 2004 and 2008, respectively).
“I know as a baseball player I have a lot of room to grow and I think I’m getting better every day and every series. I know I’m not even close to where I want to be.”