Tim Tebow will indeed be assigned to the Columbia Fireflies (Low A; Sally League) at the beginning of the 2017 season, a move that will raise the team’s national profile while also potentially drawing many more fans — and media — to Spirit Communications Park.
The assignment was announced today by Mets Manager Terry Collins. Tebow will continue with the Mets in spring training at the team’s complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida, before breaking camp the first week of April and heading to Columbia.
“No one works harder than Tim did this Spring,” Collins said today in an interview with Marc Carig from Newsday. “He was a pleasure to have around. What he wants is to improve. I’m sure he’ll be a great influence on the kids in Columbia and the fans will enjoy watching him play.”
“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 (April 6-9).”
Tebow signed with the Mets on September 8 and participated in three Florida Instructional League games, hitting a home run in his first at-bat. The 29-year-old finished 4-for-14 (.286) at the plate in those three games with two walks. Later in the fall, he played in 19 contests in the Arizona Fall League. The AFL annually features some of the best prospects in Minor League Baseball, primarily consisting of Double-A and Triple-A level players. Tebow finished with a .194 batting average (12-for-62) with two RBIs and eight walks. It was the first time the former NFL quarterback played organized baseball since his junior year of high school (Allen D. Nease High – Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida) in 2005.
Barring anything unforeseen, Tebow will wear his number 15 jersey when he steps on the field for the Fireflies.
“Tebow’s story is so compelling – from the BCS National Championships and the NFL playoffs to reinventing himself as a professional baseball player,” said Katz. “His humility, faith and unwavering commitment to better himself will bring a new dynamic to our clubhouse. Having a player that has achieved his level of success on two big stages will ultimately pay huge dividends for our players as they pursue their dreams of playing for the New York Mets.”
After graduating from the University of Florida as the SEC’s all-time leader in total touchdowns (145 – a record he still holds today), Tebow was selected by the Denver Broncos with the 25th pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He started 11 games for the Broncos in 2011 and led Denver to an AFC West Division title and a playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card round – a game that ended with Tebow throwing an 80-yard touchdown strike to Demaryius Thomas in overtime. Tebow also played for the Jets, Patriots and Eagles during his six-year NFL career.
As we noted last summer, Tebow is not the first Heisman Trophy winners to also play professional baseball. Bo Jackson followed up his 1985 Heisman campaign by playing in both Major League Baseball (where he was an All Star in 1989) and the National Football League (where he was a Pro Bowler in 1990). Ricky Williams won college football’s most prestigious awardin 1998 after spending parts of four summers as a Philadelphia Phillies farmhand. Johnny Manziel, Charlie Ward and Jameis Winston were drafted by MLB teams. And Chris Weinke won the Heisman in 2000 after six years in the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league system.
Tebow joins a select list of NFL players who also played professional baseball. Hall of Fame inductee and Broncos General Manager John Elway—for whom Tebow played while in Denver—played in the New York Yankees minor league system. Elway later went on to win two Super Bowls and make nine Pro Bowls during his 16-year NFL career. Others include eight-time NFL Pro Bowler and nine-year MLB veteran Deion Sanders, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson, nine-time Pro Bowler (and current San Francisco 49ers General Manager) John Lynch and former Atlanta Braves outfielder and Atlanta Falcons safety Brian Jordan.
The more fitting comparison may be with basketball legend Michael Jordan, who drew massive crowds while playing for the Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League). Now, we’re not saying Tebow is on the same level when it comes to talent, but Tebow is guaranteed to draw big crowds throughout the Sally League — the same as Jordan did in the Southern League.