Many people label Bo Jackson as the greatest athlete to ever live, and Deion Sanders a close second as the only athlete to ever participate in both the World Series and Super Bowl. Sanders and Jackson each famously played in both the MLB and NFL, concurrently and often with little training, as the sports’ seasons overlapped. And now, next in this line of transcendent two-sport athletes is former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.
Most recently, Tebow was seen taking practice swings from the wrong on deck circle for the New York Mets during spring training. From ESPN’s Scott Lauber, Tebow confessed, "I thought you walk around (to the first-base side of the field) because you're a left-hander. I found out you don't do that." The Mets’ opponent that day, the Boston Red Sox, were decidedly unsure of what to make of Tebow’s gaffe. Boston pitcher, Rick Procello, who was warming up on the mound at the time, explained the scene to the NY Daily News. The pitcher assumed it was a bat boy after he saw someone in a Mets uniform walking towards the Red Sox bench. A bat boy it was not, but just a former Heisman trophy winner.
Following his departure from the NFL in 2015, Tebow embarked on his mission to become an MLB ballplayer essentially because he could. His workout, to which he invited all 30 MLB teams, showed what little skills he had as a high school junior did not translate very well to the major leagues. Following the workout in the summer of 2016, the New York Mets, one of two professional baseball teams in the biggest sports market in the world, offered Tebow a minor league contract.
Tebow’s subsequent play has shown he does not possess the skills needed to be an effective baseball player. His .194 batting average and 20 strikeouts in 62 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League could be replicated or even improved upon by a younger, more versatile player with much more upside than the 29-year-old quarterback.
Of course, Tebow’s motive in pursuing this career was not just realizing a months long dream. Now, on his official website, are signed baseballs, bats and Mets jerseys, the cheapest of which are selling for a modest $125. His jersey sells for a steeper $300, but which will quickly become outdated, as the Mets have demoted Tebow to the Class-A Columbia Fireflies, a Mets affiliate in Columbia, South Carolina.
From the Mets instructional league, to the Arizona Fall League, and now to the South Atlantic League, one thing has remained constant: Tebow’s ability to draw a crowd, which certainly plays into his continued existence as a professional baseball player.
The Mets hope the full season league stint will help Tebow’s maturation, and they are quick to dismiss arguments that he is taking spots away from other players. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has noted Tebow’s athleticism and his fit with teammates. He sees no problem with either, and has dismissed the notion that he is taking away roster spots, as stated in Newsday: “That’s such a bogus argument…we have lots of players in our organization who are just that: organizational players. Not every player that we have is a top prospect whose opportunity is being curtailed by Tim Tebow or anybody else.”
Perhaps Tebow is not taking away valuable roster spots from other players, but the chances he has been given are disproportionately linked to his status in America and the riches that coincide.