On Wednesday night, former college football legend, failed NFL quarterback, and New York Mets minor league outfielder Tim Tebow announced he would be hanging up his cleats. After literally not hitting his weight in the minor leagues (.233 batting average vs 245lb bodyweight), the 33-year-old Tebow decided his baseball dreams had come to an end. This decision came just four days after the Mets announced Tebow had received an invitation to big league camp during spring training. On behalf of all baseball fans, and in true Tim Tebow post-touchdown fashion, let me say this: Thank God.
The Tim Tebow baseball experiment was bound to fail from the start. At the time of his 2016 tryout for 28 MLB teams, Tebow had not played baseball full time since 2005, when he was a junior in high school. It had been 11 years since the last time he played baseball full time, and yet before his tryout even happened he was receiving interest from the Dodgers and contract offers from independent professional teams such as the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League and the Schaumberg Boomers of the Frontier League.
Let’s be perfectly clear: There are thousands of dedicated ballplayers who eat, breathe, and sleep baseball daily, busting their asses to achieve their dreams, and before even picking up a bat Tim Tebow was taking a roster spot from them. Solely based on the mystique of his name and college football career, Tim Tebow was going to get a contract and take a roster spot that he quite simply didn’t deserve.
On September 8, 2016, the New York Mets signed Tim Tebow to a Minor League Contract. On September 28, 2016, in his first at-bat, on the first pitch he saw in the Mets’ instructional league, he hit a home run. For one swing, it looked like the Mets might have struck gold.
Then the Mets sent him to the Arizona Fall League, a league meant for baseball’s most highly touted prospects. At 28 years old and having never seen a pitch outside of the instructional league, Tebow certainly did not meet that standard and again took a roster spot from a more deserving player. This was ever so clear when he posted a .194/.296/.242 line with 20 strikeouts in 62 at-bats, recording 8 more strikeouts than he did hits.
After making a few publicity appearances at Major League spring training, the natural next step for the former Heisman winner was a bump up to the Class-A Columbia Fireflies to start the 2017 season. This is where it starts to get weird. On April 6, 2017, seven months after hitting the first pitch of his pro career for a home run, Tebow launched a home run to the opposite field in his first at-bat as a Firefly. Yet again, Tebow rushed onto the scene with a bang, however once again the bangs stopped there.
Over his next 213 at-bats at Class-A Columbia, Tebow would record just 47 hits and 2 more home runs. Nevertheless, on June 5, 2017, the Mets saw fit to promote him to their Class-A Advanced affiliate St. Lucie Mets. I kid you not, in his first game with St. Lucie, in the 7th and final inning of a tie ballgame, Tim Tebow took a first-pitch fastball over the left-field fence for a walk-off home run. You can’t make this shit up.
In July Tebow tore it up with a 12 game hitting streak between July 3 and 14, but again this would be the peak of his Class-A Advanced experience. He posted similar numbers as his time in Columbia, finishing the season at St. Lucie with 50 hits and 57 strikeouts in 242 at-bats, in what was a respectable but not promising first full year of pro baseball.
At the start of 2018, Tebow announced he would like to return for another season, to which the Mets rewarded him with an invite to Major League spring training. Clearly a publicity stunt, as a guy who just produced a .226/.309/.347 line in A-ball had no real shot at making the MLB roster, the Tebow spring training experiment went exactly as one might expect.
In 18 spring training at-bats, he recorded just 1 hit and a whopping 11 strikeouts, but his 2017 Class-A numbers were enough for the Mets to justify promotion to Double-A Binghamton to start the 2018 regular season.
Go ahead and guess how his first at-bat for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies went. Yup, in his first at-bat at Double-A Tebow clobbered a ball to deep right field for a-3 run home run. Tim Tebow hits like Barry Bonds in his first games at a new level. Every step of the way, with every promotion he had gotten to this point, Tebow had taken a ball deep in his first appearance for his new team.
For the first time though, he somewhat found his stride at Double-A, finishing the season with a much-improved stat line of .273/.336/.399 along with a nomination as a starter in the Eastern League All-Star Game before a broken hamate bone in his right hand caused him to miss the remainder of the season. Despite the disappointing end to his season, for the first time in pro-ball Tim Tebow looked like he belonged.
His solid Double-A season was rewarded with another trip to Major League Spring Training, and yet again his performance was not enough to make the big league team, but based on his 2018 performance he was given a promotion to play at Triple-A for the Syracuse Mets.
At Triple-A, Tebow’s insane streak of first game home runs came to an end, as did his previous success and any real chance he may have had at a major league career. Before a pinky injury caused him to miss the rest of the 2019 season, Tebow hit for a horrendous average of .163 with 39 hits and 98 strikeouts in 239 at-bats. With that abysmal stat line, and his second injury in 2 years this looked like it could be the end of the road for Tebow. We and he didn’t know it at the time, but it would be just that.
In 2020 Tebow made an appearance at MLB spring training again and even hit a home run in a real big league spring training game before the COVID-19 pandemic derailed spring camp and caused the entire 2020 Minor League Baseball season to be canceled. Tebow was not included on the Mets roster for the shortened 2020 MLB season and therefore was forced to sit the year out of professional baseball.
Fast forward now to 2021. On February 13, 2021 Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson announced that Tebow would again be invited to MLB spring training. Just four days later on February 17, 2021, Tim Tebow announced he would be retiring from professional baseball, officially ending the Tim Tebow experiment.
I don’t want this to come off as a Tim Tebow hate piece. I don’t hate him; I don’t even dislike him. I think he’s a really good guy who does a lot of good things. The Tim Tebow Foundation does incredible work, most notably “Night to Shine,” an event he holds that provides those with special needs with a prom experience.
With the help of CURE, he built a children’s hospital in the Philippines. He has helped raise money for pediatric cancer and for an orphanage in the Philippines. He has done more to better this world in his 33 years than most people will in their whole lifetime. This is a baseball piece, and a baseball piece only.
I can’t fault him for wanting to pursue a career in professional baseball. Who wouldn’t want to play baseball every day as a career? I can’t blame the Mets for taking a chance on him and signing him. Who wouldn’t want a globally known star athlete as a part of their organization?
The issue I have is this: Every year of Tim Tebow’s baseball experiment cost someone who worked their whole life to be a professional baseball player their opportunity. It cost someone a roster spot, it cost someone a spring training invite, it cost someone their dream, and it was never going to amount to Tim Tebow on an MLB roster.
I wish that he would have followed in the footsteps of fellow quarterback Russell Wilson, who every year shows up to Yankees spring training, takes a few at-bats, signs some autographs, takes his photo ops, and gives some advice and inspiration to the team. In this capacity, I would have been thrilled to see Tim Tebow step into the world of pro baseball.
Without professional baseball, Tim Tebow will still be one of the most famous football players ever, and product endorsements and TV analyst deals will always be on the table for him. That is not the case for the hard-working minor leaguers who lost their shot at their dream for this experiment.
There were some fun, shiny moments on the surface, but when you look past those first at-bat home runs, photo ops, and increases in ticket sales, this is the ugly truth of Tim Tebow’s anti-climactic professional baseball career.