NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Tim Tebow in the Big Apple? On a baseball field? It could become reality.
Hoping to turn his failed NFL experience into a career in Major League Baseball, the former Heisman Trophy winner signed a minor league contract Thursday morning with the New York Mets. The deal includes a $100,000 signing bonus, The Associated Press reported. He has been assigned to the club’s Instructional League, which runs from Sept. 18-Oct. 8, in Port St. Lucie, Florida, although he will have to miss two days a week to fulfill his broadcasting commitments with the SEC Network.
“It felt like the right fit,” Tebow told CBS2. “And I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said recruiting Tebow was a baseball decision — not a marketing decision, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
“While I and the organization, I think, are mindful of the novel nature of this situation, this decision was strictly driven by baseball,” Alderson said. “This was not something that was driven by marketing considerations or anything of the sort. We are extremely intrigued with the potential that Tim has. He has demonstrated over his athletic career that he is a tremendous athlete, has great character, a competitive spirit. And aside from the age, this is a classic player development opportunity for us.”
Alderson said he rejects the notion that Tebow has no chance of reaching the major league level, noting that starting pitcher Seth Lugo was a 34th-round draft pick and third baseman T.J. Rivera was undrafted.
Tebow, who played three seasons in the NFL, including in 2012 with the Jets, gave a private workout to representatives of all but two MLB teams last week at the University of Southern California. Overall, the 29-year-old received mixed reviews, with scouts less than thrilled with his arm, but impressed by his power at the plate as he routinely deposited batting practice fastballs well over the fence at Rod Dedeaux Field.
The display prompted many baseball insiders to say Tebow would get a shot with a team, though not at the major league level — at least initially.
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Enter the Mets, who saw enough to roll the dice on a superb athlete who has not played competitive baseball since he was a teenager. As junior at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Florida, in 2005, Tebow batted .448 with four home runs and 25 RBI and was named All-First Coast by The Florida Times-Union.
“I’m looking forward here in a couple of weeks to getting to work and showing up at Port St. Lucie, not too far from home, and really starting this journey,” Tebow said. “And I know that it’s not one that will be necessarily easy. I know it’s a tough game, but I’m looking forward to putting in the work, and I felt like this was just the best fit.”
Reaction from Met fans came fast and furious.
“He’s humongous. He’s a world-class athlete. So maybe he can learn to hit a curve ball,” Mets fan Don Kelly said. “I think that’s what they’re going for. What do they have to lose? They’re not paying him much — maybe he’ll turn into something.”
“He’s a character, and the Mets need more characters to make the team more interesting so why not?” Mets fan Len Rubin said.
Tebow, who won national championships in football at the University of Florida in 2006 and 2008, was one of the greatest quarterbacks in NCAA history, albeit as more of a running signal-caller than a traditional drop-back passer. A former first-round pick of the Denver Broncos, Tebow struggled with his accuracy in the NFL, completing just 48 percent of his throws in 35 career games.
He projects to be an outfielder if he ever makes it to the majors. Scouts had said Tebow displayed enough raw talent to warrant an extended look, which is what the Mets have decided to do.
“My best position is whatever they feel like it is,” Tebow said. “I mean, I’ll work. I feel comfortable in the outfield. I feel comfortable at first base. But honestly, everything will be an adjustment for me.
“I’m someone who is going to put in the work. And with great coaches, I feel like I can just improve. So I really want to take the time to get to know these coaches and improve and really go through this process and listen to their advice as well.”
New York Post baseball writer Ken Davidoff told CBS2’s Steve Overmyer believes Tebow could be a good leader for his minor league teammates.
“I don’t think the Mets are expecting him to be an All-Star Major League player someday. I think they think he’ll be able to lead by example — by his work ethic, by his character. Show these young kids how to take work seriously,” Davidoff said.
After Tebow participates in the Instructional League, the Mets will discuss the next step with him, which could include playing in organized ball in the Arizona Fall League or a winter league or receiving more personalized instruction through the fall, Alderson said.
Only 10 percent of of minor leaguers ever make it to the majors.
The Mets Single-A affiliate is the Brooklyn Cyclones, so don’t be surprised to see Tebow on the roster next year.