SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The task ahead for Tim Tebow is daunting.
Until recently, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback had not swung a baseball bat in competition in more than 11 years — since his junior year of high school in Jacksonville, Florida.
Now 29 and four years removed from his last snaps in an NFL game, Tebow will get some experience during the next several weeks in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, a significant step up in class from the Mets’ Instructional League, which ended last week.
In Arizona, Tebow is thrust into an arena with players on the edge of commencing their major-league careers.
Listed at 6-3 and 255 pounds, the Mets’ newest minor-league outfielder appears in superb shape and looks as if he can hit a baseball from Scottsdale Stadium, site of Monday night’s Scorpions workout, to California in one direction and New Mexico in the other.
Tebow said he is not concerned with failure, doubt or disappointment.
“There will be a lot of great players out here, but I’m working very hard each day,” Tebow said after Monday’s workout. “Remember, it’s a process and I know it’s a process. I have the mindset to work toward spring training and understand the long-term goal.”
If Tebow is going to make the transition to professional baseball, his skills need to improve.
During the workout Monday night, the lefthanded batter took five turns in the batting cage and primarily hit the ball to the opposite field. In his early swings, Tebow’s lack of bat speed was evident.
He said he is not worried about the potential to be overmatched. “Great competition, and look forward to play against guys of the highest level soon,” Tebow said. “Look forward to playing and learning from the best.”
Tebow’s sense of competition and positive attitude should serve him well. At this point, there is no defined path for him. Unlike most of the athletes here, he has not established his level of play and thus where the Mets might assign him after spring training.
Tebow said he simply looks forward to each day of instruction, practice and the quest to get better.
Tebow said his biggest challenge right now is recognition of the curveball. He also pointed to a learning curve playing the outfield. During his stay here, he said he hopes to learn how to read the ball off the bat, get better jumps and play rebounds off the fence and in the corners.
“He’s up for the challenge,” said Mets first-base coach Tom Goodwin, who will manage Scottsdale in the Fall League. “We know this is a huge step for him, but the more he is exposed to the game, the better he will be.”
Tebow’s first competition will be Tuesday afternoon when the Scorpions open their schedule against the Glendale Desert Dogs at Camelback Ranch. That’s the spring training venue of the Dodgers and White Sox. Tebow will play leftfield and hit seventh in Goodwin’s batting order.