Timothy Richard Tebow
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 3", Weight 255 lb.
- School University of Florida
- High School Trinity Christian Academy (Jacksonville), Nease High School
Before a brief and largely unsuccessful career as a minor league outfielder, Tim Tebow was a huge star as a college football quarterback and also played in the National Football League. At the University of Florida, he won the Heisman Trophy given to the best college football player in the country in 2007 and was the first sophomore to win the prestigious award. He set a slew of career passing records in the Southeastern Conference and was also a tremendous runner for a quarterback; he twice led his team to the national championship.
His professional football career was less successful. He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the first round in 2010, and became their starting quarterback in the middle of his second season, rallying the team from a terrible start to win a division title and a playoff game, something the Broncos had not done in a number of years. However, he was traded to the New York Jets after the season after Denver had signed superstar Peyton Manning to be their quarterback. For his part Tebow played little in New York. He was later a member of the New England Patriots, but his career quickly fizzled out. In spite of his college success, his passing arm was considered weak by NFL standards.
His football career was largely overshadowed by his personal life - not the stereotypical NFL player's regular appearances on the police blotter, but on the contrary, his very outspoken born-again Christian views, which were very divisive. For example, the NCAA had to pass a rule banning student-athletes from sporting messages on their eye-black, as Tebow had used this means to write references to biblical verses. He was also criticized for regularly kneeling down in prayer on the field, a practice that was nicknamed "Tebowing". When he was successful with the Broncos, his leading the team to a string of unlikely victories was seen by his staunchest supporters as a form of divine caution for his personal beliefs, something which stopped when he was unable to reproduce this success elsewhere.
After the end of his NFL career, Tebow was hired by ESPN to be a college football analyst in 2013. He tried a comeback with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 but was cut at the end of training camp. He continued to work as an analyst on college football telecasts, however.
Tebow was born in the Philippines, the son of Baptist missionaries. Like his four siblings, he was home-schooled but was allowed to compete in high school sports with Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, FL, then moved to Nease High School so he could play quarterback. He earned his first national media attention for turning around the school's struggling football program and as a result earned a full scholarship to the University of Florida. He had played baseball in his two high school seasons at Nease before graduating early, and was considered an excellent prospect, batting .494 as a junior, with outstanding power.
In the summer of 2016, Tebow announced that he was ready to attempt a comeback as a baseball player, having recently trained with former major league catcher Chad Moeller. His announcement was met with a lot of derision, but 28 of the 30 major league teams sent scouts to a workout organized for him in Los Angeles, CA on August 30th. Reactions were mixed, with some anonymous scouts saying the showcase was a complete waste of time, and others commenting that while he was obviously a long way from the majors, he had tremendous power and had an outside chance of making it, his biggest drawback being that he was starting his attempt at 29 already. The showcase led to the expected contract offers from independent league teams looking for cheap publicity, but a few days later, reports emerged that the Atlanta Braves were seriously interested as well. However, it was the New York Mets who decided to sign him, on September 7th. Reports indicated that he was given a signing bonus of $100,000. He began his career in the Florida Instructional League shortly thereafter. He received more publicity when he homered on the first pitch he saw in that circuit on September 28th, but that did not erase significant doubts about how much true potential he had. In 19 games, he batted .194 with 20 strikeouts in 62 at-bats.
Mets manager Terry Collins, for one, stated that he thought Tebow deserved to be invited to the Mets' major league spring training in 2017, but the Mets stated in January of that year that it would not be the case. However, they relented to some extent as Tebow was in their team's minor league camp but on March 8th was invited to take part in a first Grapefruit League game against the Boston Red Sox. His opportunity came as the Mets were losing 14 players to various teams playing in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, opening the door for other players in the organization to get some work in with the remaining major leaguers, especially with some split-squad games scheduled that week. In his debut, he went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts while serving as the Mets's DH. The one time he put the ball in play, he grounded into a bases-loaded double play, but he did reach base once on a hit-by-pitch - only to be caught off first base on a line-out. He not only had to deal with a swarm of reporters that spring, but also with a stalker, a woman who pretended to be in a relationship with the former football hero and was trespassing on the Mets' training complex. After going hitless in his first 8 at-bats, he got a hit on March 13th and also showed his athleticism with a nice diving catch in left field.
At the end of spring training in 2017, he was assigned to the Columbia Fireflies of the Class A South Atlantic League. In his first official minor league game on April 6th, he hit a two-run home run off Domenic Mazza of the Augusta GreenJackets to send the media into a frenzy once again. He did strike out three times in his other four at-bats, though, as Columbia won the game, 14-7. On June 27th, he was promoted one level to the high Class A St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League. He had batted .222 with 3 homers and 23 RBIs for Columbia while striking out 69 times in 212 at-bats. Then, just as he had done with Columbia, he homered in his first day with St. Lucie on June 28th, hitting a two-run shot off Junior Fernandez of the Palm Beach Cardinals in the second game of a doubleheader, after going 1 for 2 with a walk in the opener. It marked the start of a good period for him, as he improved to .320 in his first 23 games in the FSL, in spite of facing a higher level of competition. Observers said that this was not fortuitous: he had improved his swing significantly through hard work and the benefits of playing every day, leading to much better results. Another clear windfall from his presence was that both Columbia and St. Lucie had witnessed a significant rise in attendance due to his presence on the team. He ended the year hitting a combined .226/.309/.347 in 126 games, with 8 homers and 52 RBIs. He struck out 126 times against 43 walks.
In 2018, the Mets issued him an invitation to the major league spring training, a reward for his hard work and improvement during his first minor league season. He also received a vote of confidence from GM Sandy Alderson at a press conference on February 18th: "I think he will play in the major leagues. That’s my guess. That's my hope and to some extent now after a year and a half, a modest expectation." Observers who had watched him the previous year could not help but comment on how much improved he was, now taking very good cuts on some tough pitches. "I just feel a lot more adjusted to the game. I feel like I have a much different approach and swing, so I can be a lot more patient seeing pitches and trusting all the work I've put in," he confirmed to reporters. As expected, he was part of the first round of cuts from the major league camp, but not before he had impressed teammates and management with his hard work and positive attitude in spite of hitting .056 with 11 strikeouts in 19 appearances in Grapefruit League action. All of this was as a designated hitter, as he sprained his ankle by stepping on a sprinkler early on and could not play the field as a result. Continuing with his well-established flair for the dramatic, Tebow opened the season on April 5th with a three-run homer on the first pitch of his first at-bat for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. After a slow start, he began to turn up the production, to the point that he was hitting .261 with 5 homers at the end of June and was named to the Eastern League mid-season All-Star team. He started the game at DH and batting 9th on July 11th, and doubled to left off Beau Burrows in his first at-bat while going 1 for 4 in the game. Unfortunately, the following week, he broke the hamate bone in his right hand and had to undergo surgery, ending his season and pre-empting a likely September call-up to the big leagues. He was playing the best ball of his career at the time, with a .340 average since the beginning of July and hits in 13 of his last 14 games. He ended the season at .273 in 84 games.
Following the 2018 season, new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen - his former agent - stated that he expected Tebow to start 2019 in AAA, hinting that he could make his big league debut that season if he got off to a good start. In January, the Mets announced that they were again bringing him to spring training as a non-roster invitee. There was also some movement on the personal front for Tim as in January 2019, People Magazine reported that he was engaged to Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, a former Miss Universe from South Africa (they got married a year later, in South Africa). Following Oakland A's top draftee Kyler Murray's decision to give up on baseball to concentrate on football, Tebow was asked if he was open to doing the same thing, amid rumors of a new professional football league being set up, but he dismissed such talk, reaffirming that his mind was now set on baseball. He was sent down to minor league camp, as expected, on March 12th, and while some writers presented this as a setback, it clearly was not the case, as there was never any plan of having him start the season in the majors. In any case, he started the year slowly with the Syracuse Mets as after 23 games, he was hitting just .130. Those who had always been skeptical of his chances of making as a baseball player helpfully suggested at that point that he should call it quits. For the second straight year, his minor league season ended early due to an injury, suffering a cut on a finger of his left hand while fielding a ball in the outfield on July 21st, although the Mets did not announce he was done until August 10th. The year had been less than stellar, with an average of .163 and 98 strikeouts in 77 games. Still, he again received a non-roster invitation to major league spring training in 2020.
In spring training in 2020, he announced that he had accepted an invitation to join the Philippines national team for the 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers that March, after receiving the OK from GM Van Wagenen and manager Luis Rojas. He had left the country of his birth before turning five, but had returned regularly ever since and performed missionary work there himself, so he still felt a strong connection. However, those plans and all of those for the upcoming season, were upended by the Coronavirus pandemic that shut down the WBC Qualifiers and major league spring training as well. Tebow was unable to play anywhere that season, and while the Mets invited him to spring training again in 2021, he declined the invitation, announcing on February 17th that he was retiring as a player. He thanked everyone who had supported him in his journey and explained that "At this time I feel called in other directions." His next step was an attempted comeback in professional football - but not as a quarterback. In May of 2021, the Jacksonville Jaguars offered him a one-year contract and an invitation to their training camp to work out as a tight end. He was considered a longshot to make it back, given he had never played the position professionally and had been out of the NFL for eight years. Indeed, he was cut after just one preseason game.
- Nancy Armour: "Tim Tebow is a pretty good football player for a baseball prospect", USA Today, May 7, 2019. 
- Dana Hunsinger Benbow: "Struggling in the minors, Tim Tebow still bringing the buzz to every stadium", USA Today, July 16, 2019. 
- Scott Boeck: "Tim Tebow reassigned to Mets' minor league camp, likely to start season in Class AAA", USA Today, March 12, 2019. 
- J.J. Cooper: "Tim Tebow wants to play baseball", Baseball America, August 9, 2016. 
- Jerry Crasnick: "Tim Tebow has a lot of ground to cover in baseball", ESPN.com, August 31, 2016. 
- Anthony DiComo: "Out on a Tim: Mets embracing Tebowmania: Former University of Florida football star turned outfielder due in camp Monday", mlb.com, February 27, 2017. 
- Anthony DiComo: "Tebow makes it clear: 'I'm all in on baseball': Mets prospect will likely start season at Triple-A, but hopes to see big league time", mlb.com, February 16, 2019. 
- Anthony DiComo: "Tebow to represent Philippines in 2021 WBC: First qualifier game is scheduled for March 20 vs. Czech Republic", mlb.com, February 26, 2020. 
- Matt Ehalt: "Mets GM Sandy Alderson believes Tim Tebow will eventually play in MLB", USA Today Sports, February 18, 2018. 
- Matt Ehalt: "Tim Tebow's teammates appreciate his work ethic -- and fantasy football advice", USA Today Sports, March 12, 2018. 
- Scott Gleeson: "Entering another spring training with Mets, Tim Tebow 'won't give up' on baseball dream", USA Today, February 11, 2020. 
- Andrew Joseph: "Braves GM: 'There's no risk’ in signing Tim Tebow", USA Today Sports, September 6, 2016. 
- Richard Justice: "It's Tebow time, and nothing wrong with that: Hats off to former football star for fulfilling another dream", mlb.com, March 6, 2017. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Braves show interest in Tim Tebow, who can make them a lot of money", USA Today Sports, September 3, 2016. 
- Mike Lupica: "Tebow time: Former QB still has eyes set on MLB", mlb.com, February 22, 2018. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Mets know reality as Tim Tebow time begins: Major leagues are but a dream", USA Today Sports, September 8, 2016. 
- Josh Peter: "Tim Tebow, struggling in the minors, is not ready to give up on his MLB dream", USA Today Sports, June 9, 2018. 
- Jon Santucci: "Tebow cites comfort as reason for recent surge", "TC Palm", Treasure Coast Newspapers, July 20, 2017. 
- Kevin Spain: "Tim Tebow's minor league teams have seen huge increase in attendance", USA Today Sports, August 9, 2017. 
- Laura Wagner: "Tim Tebow's Baseball Dream", Theatlantic.com, August 31, 2016.