Tim Tebow is playing in the Double-A, Eastern League All-Star Game on Wednesday, which seems pretty good considering this is the second sport he’s turned professional in and he is basically just moonlighting from his “real” and more lucrative day jobs – books, speaking engagements and ESPN broadcaster.
After all, on the pantheon of baseball players, reaching Double-A ball, let alone an all-star game, is high up there, probably a lot higher than anyone reading this has reached.
For many though, this is not pretty good. This is not good at all or at least not good enough. Tebow is 30 years old, in his second season in full-time baseball and hitting .270 with five home runs.
Mike Trout he isn’t. Mike Trout he’ll never be.
For many, that is essentially the standard he needs to clear for his entire foray from football to baseball to be deemed a success. All or nothing. Or at least he needs to become a viable major leaguer. Will he even make it all the way to the New York Mets, and not just to sell tickets?
“I think it’s a great story,” Mets assistant general manager John Ricco told the New York Post last week, cautioning that nothing is imminent. “We’ll see where it goes.”
We’ll see where it goes, although in reality, there is plenty to see right now.
It’s all a matter of perspective and not simply divided by Tebow fans (who applaud the attempt, note that he isn’t hurting anyone and hail his virtues) or the Tebow critics (who see it all as a marketing ploy, even though, as marketing ploys go, playing baseball for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies doesn’t seem all that effective for a guy who’s turned down invites to be on “Dancing with the Stars”).
The reaction and counter-reactions to Tim Tebow have been fascinating to watch since he broke into public consciousness over a decade ago as a Bible-verse promoting quarterback at the University of Florida, where’d win two national titles and one Heisman Trophy.
That hasn’t changed as he transitioned from football to baseball and slowly developed into a legitimate minor league player.
Tebow has never fit into a box, even though he’s profited well off people’s willingness to do so. Sometimes he fits the narrative others have of him. Sometimes he does not.
This attempt at baseball is both of those things.
Mostly he’s tried to live life on his terms while remaining true to his priorities. That can mean going all in on the sport he’s playing. That can mean professing his faith at every turn. That can mean refusing to do what others want him to do if it doesn’t interest him.
“I got a chance to pursue football and really live out my dream as a quarterback and there were highs and lows with that,” Tebow said in 2016 as he switched from football to baseball. “And now I get to do that with baseball. I’m excited about that.”
He doesn’t fear failure, or what critics will say when he fails or even what they determine is the standard for failure.
He fears failing to block that out and thus trying in the first place.
Consider that Tebow was always held aloft as the epitome of football’s long-standing puritanical value system – a willingness to sacrifice self for victory, doing only what the coach believes is best for the team, etc.
There was certainly some of that in his game. He was an incredible leader, particularly at the college level. He was a dedicated and hardnosed player. There was also a selfish streak to him though. Namely, he refused countless attempts in the NFL to switch from quarterback to receiver, tight end, fullback, H-back, whatever, even if it might aid the team.
Tebow has repeatedly said he never really loved football, he loved playing quarterback. There’s a difference. Lots of college quarterbacks see they can’t make it in the NFL and find a new position. It’s the same with other positions. Tebow refused. Not even Bill Belichick could find a role for him.
Tebow was willing to quit on football rather than change positions. So be it. That doesn’t make him a good person or a bad person. It just makes him his own person. He was never what even his most ardent fans projected on him. Just like he was never what his most ardent critics projected on him.
“The two things I loved so much in sports was hitting a baseball and quarterbacking,” Tebow said. “Because both were so hard, because both were so tough. In football, they are counting on you to win the game for your team in the end. Quarterback is the only position where they count the record. The record counts for you. So it’s tough.
“And hitting, if you go 3 for 10 it’s a really good thing. I just love those two things.”
Tebow hasn’t yet figured out how to go 3 for 10. He’s getting closer though at the Double-A level – he went 9 of 23 (.391) the last week before the All-Star Game. If he can get there, he’ll move up, maybe all the way to the Mets. Time ticks though.
“The thing with him all along was going to be Father Time, and whether he has a long enough window in order to make this happen, but he’s trending in the right direction,” Ricco said. “Every month it seems he gets better and better … at Double-A, he’s more than holding his own.”
For a guy starting a second sport after a long hiatus and thus delaying the true grind of adulthood to pursue a childhood dream, that seems pretty cool.
Maybe some would appreciate him more if he was playing tight end in the NFL. Or maybe they’ll only consider this anything but a failed joke if he can get to New York and really hit the ball.
Tim Tebow isn’t playing by those standards though. Or any standards other than his own. If you’ve been paying attention, he never has.
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