PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Mets outfield prospect Tim Tebow causes a sensation wherever he goes, but nowhere more so than in Florida, where he won two national college football championships and a Heisman trophy.
“It’s always great to be in Florida,” Tebow told reporters at a 12-minute news conference a few hours before a game against the Palm Beach Cardinals was postponed because of inclement weather. The teams will play a doubleheader at 4 p.m. Wednesday. “It’s close to home and playing with a lot of guys I played in the spring with.
“I’m looking forward to this opportunity starting [Wednesday], trying to make the most of it,” he said. “Also understanding that I’ve got a long way to go, and just try to get a little better every day and keep working on the process.”
Other than the pitching he will face being slightly better, Tebow said he doesn’t expect much to change in his approach.
Assessing his progress in the 10 months since he first donned a uniform as a professional baseball player, the 29-year-old Tebow said he thinks his biggest improvements have been in pitch identification and base running.
He said he tries to stay locked into his day-to-day routine and not to look too far ahead. “I get today. Tomorrow is not promised,” he said. “I’m going to make the most of today, and that sounds cliché, but gosh, I hope when you look at my life, 10, 20, 30 years from now you can see somebody that really took advantage of that day, every day, and that I cared about everything I did.”
If Tebow’s Florida State League debut is Wednesday, he’ll be the ninth player to appear in leftfield this season for the St. Lucie Mets, who at 33-35 in the first half were fifth in the six-team South Division. They’re not looking much better, with a 1-3 start to the second half.
Before his promotion, Tebow posted a .220/.311/.336 slash line in 64 games for Columbia, with three home runs and a .647 OPS. He was thrown out in his one attempt to steal a base.
Explaining his decision to promote Tebow, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Tebow had shown some improvement in the past few weeks.
In 21 games in June, Tebow’s OPS was .667 and he had improved slightly his walk-strikeout ratio.
The former NFL quarterback said one of the things he carries over from football is to focus on the improvement, not the results or his statistics.
Offense hasn’t been St. Lucie’s problem anyway. They are third in the 12-team league in runs per game, but 11th in runs allowed.
So, Merandy Gonzalez and Jordan Humphries — 21-year-old starting pitchers who were named to the South Atlantic League All-Star team before they were promoted last week, will likely be more help to St. Lucie on the field than Tebow.
Whether Tebow will help St. Lucie in the standings remains to be seen, but it is almost certain he will help the team at the gate. While with the Class A Columbia Fireflies, they led the South Atlantic League in attendance, averaging 5,308 spectators in 39 dates, compared with 3,785 last season.
Through their first 37 home dates, St. Lucie averaged 1,745 per game in a stadium that seats 7,500.
Tebow said the fan support is nice. He said it’s important to use the platform of sports to help people while he has it, but it’s not so important while he is on the field.
“People will be cheering your name in the first inning, but wait till they have a couple drinks in the seventh inning, they might be booing you, he said. “Guess what, I’ve had a lot of both, but that’s not the special part.
“The special part is the people I’ve had a chance to impact through having a platform, so I don’t want that to ever feel normal because that’s something special and bigger than a game.”