Posted on March 20, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Tim Tebow’s foray into baseball continues to unfold right on schedule. The New York Mets announced on Monday that Tebow will begin the 2017 regular season with the Columbia Fireflies, the team’s low-A affiliate that plays in the South Atlantic League. The plan the Mets put forth for Tebow when he signed a minor-league contract with the club last fall included Tebow showing enough during spring training to break camp with a full-season club, and the Mets say Tebow has done just that.
“Sending him to a full-season club is what we hoped to be able to do,” Mets GM Sandy Alderson said Monday. “And based on what he’s done in spring training, and his whole body of work since last fall, we feel comfortable with him going to Columbia.”
Tebow participated in instructional league with the Mets last fall soon after signing. The team then sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where Tebow predictably struggled against some of the game’s elite prospects. However, the Mets sent him to the AFL so he could get as many reps as possible before spring. Tebow has gotten some reps in big league spring training, going 4 for 20. Between that and what Tebow has shown the Mets on the back fields in minor-league camp, the club has deemed him ready for A-ball.
“He’s obviously very athletic and he has adapted very quickly,” Alderson said of Tebow at the plate this spring. “His approach at the plate is very solid. He doesn’t chase pitches. People might say his swing is a little long but the swing is professional. When he’s made contact, it’s often been hard contact.”
Defensively, Tebow has made a couple nice plays, even though Alderson describes him as a “work in progress” on that side of the ball.
“He’s made some nice plays, again demonstrating the athleticism that everybody’s seen he has,” Alderson said about Tebow’s defense, adding that the Heisman Trophy winner has “improved pretty dramatically” since his time in the AFL.
How Tebow will fair when he starts playing every day in the minors remains to be seen, but the Fireflies, who begin their season April 6, are happy to have him.
“Tim Tebow will bring major excitement and national attention to the Fireflies and city of Columbia,” said Fireflies president John Katz. “Baseball fans, sports fans and Tim Tebow fans will likely come from around the southeast to see him play. We expect this to add to the energy at Spirit Communications Park and around downtown Columbia, especially during our opening weekend.”
Tebow himself says after making an A-ball team out of spring training, he’s not going to get caught up in any goals or expectations for the season to come.
“You don’t want to set goals that you don’t understand what you’re getting into,” Tebow told reporters Monday. “You want to have your eyes wide open, go into it, get a feel for it, and then ‘this is where I’m at, this is where I want to get to.’ I know exactly where I’m at with the competition.”
Meanwhile, Alderson continues to deny that Tebow was signed as a publicity stunt or that Tebow’s presence will take away reps from legitimate prospects.
“We’ve got lots of room for lots of players at lots of different levels. The fact that he’s starting at Columbia, he’s really not taking anybody’s spot,” Alderson explains. “By the way, 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.”
If Tebow has success in Columbia, he’ll have three more levels of minor-league baseball to traverse to make it to the majors. Obviously, there’s no guarantee he’ll earn a promotion to the next level by the end of the season or at all. However, Tebow starting the season in low-A ball means he’s on track with the plan the Mets had when they first signed him, which means the former quarterback has made at least some progress towards his goal of being a major league player.