PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Tim Tebow Show is back for a second season, and the setting this time is the Mets’ major-league camp, as opposed to minor-league camp with cameos in the bigs, which was the case for the quarterback-turned-outfielder last year.
The biggest difference between the two sides?
“Um, food,” Tebow said with a laugh Friday.
Tebow, 30, had plenty to smile about after making his first start of camp, slotting in as the designated hitter in the Mets’ 2-1 loss to the Nationals at First Data Field. He went 1-for-3 with a line-drive single and also reached base on an error.
Tebow’s first at-bat came against Max Scherzer, the reigning two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, and lasted about a minute. Strike looking, strike swinging, strike looking.
“He’s nasty,” Tebow said. “In a good way, I mean.”
Tebow followed with a single to left-center against Erick Fedde, considered Washington’s top pitching prospect. In his last plate appearance, he fouled off five consecutive pitches before sending a hard grounder to first baseman Jose Marmolejos, who booted it, allowing Tebow to reach.
“He has a good swing,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “He’s putting some really good swings on pitches.”
Tebow made himself clear in saying that he feels far better this year than he did in 2017. And Callaway, as the Mets’ first-year skipper, has to take his word for comparative purposes.
In addition to having a full season of professional baseball behind him, Tebow also spent much of the offseason reworking his swing, including with Mets assistant hitting coach Tom Slater. The hardest part, Tebow said, has been maintaining those changes while ramping up the intensity, from soft toss to batting practice to live BP to exhibition games.
“I feel a lot more adjusted to the game,” Tebow said. “I feel like I have a very different approach and swing, so I can be a lot more patient seeing pitches and trusting all the work I put in.
“Just being able to see pitches, timing, having hopefully a cleaner path, so I hopefully have a little bit more time, buying time to see the pitch longer.
“It’s so much more natural, with mobility, flexibility and the path and the work of the swing. I put in a lot of work this offseason.”
In short, Tebow feels more like a baseball player.
“He looks comfortable at the plate, and he tells us he’s feeling more and more comfortable,” Callaway said. “He feels like he’s in a much better spot than he was last year at this time.”
The Mets have not said where Tebow will open the 2018 season. He split last season between low Class A Columbia and high Class A St. Lucie — batting .226 with a .309 OBP and .347 slugging percentage — so Double-A Binghamton would be a logical starting point.
Don’t forget that general manager Sandy Alderson already has said that Tim Tebow, major-leaguer, could become a reality.
“That’s my hope, and to some extent now after a year and a half, a modest expectation,” Alderson said last month.
So despite naysayers inside and outside the game, don’t expect Tebow to go away anytime soon.
He said “I definitely do” get butterflies every time he steps to the plate. “I get butterflies for almost everything I do, because I just care so much about it,” he said. “I’m passionate. I love it. I enjoy it. Whatever you want to call it — butterflies, excitement, adrenaline. All of it. I like it. If I didn’t have that, I probably wouldn’t be playing. It’s one of the best parts about sports, that competition. That feeling you get, it’s really fun.”