Tim Tebow has been a member of the St. Lucie Mets for just 23 games, but he's already one of the best hitters in the entire Florida State League.
The former NFL quarterback was the talk of baseball as recently as one month ago, when he was promoted from the Class A Columbia Fireflies to St. Lucie in spite of a listless .220/.311/.336 (AVG/OBP/SLG) slash line. The seemingly unwarranted move inspired ridicule from around the game, with many accusing the Mets organization of a shameless publicity stunt.
Nearly four weeks have passed since then, and general manager Sandy Alderson's front office has seemingly been vindicated.
Tebow immediately took to his new competition, posting five hits, including a home run, in his first three games with St. Lucie. He has not relented since, and his slash line now sits at a healthy .320/.407/.520 through 23 games. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify for rate stats, his .927 OPS would be third in the league.
It's been a remarkable turnaround for Tebow, especially considering he didn't play a single competitive baseball game between high school and last September. Getting acclimated to the routine of a professional ballplayer has been a huge factor in his High-A success.
"I think I'm more comfortable seeing more pitches," Tebow said, according to an interview with TCPalm. "Playing baseball for longer, I think that helps. Also [hitting coach] Luis [Natera] and [manager] Chad [Kreuter], getting to work with them every day and just what we’re doing out there — taking pitches, seeing, tracking. I feel more comfortable with my swing, feel more comfortable with my game plan I'm having against pitchers and then just playing more baseball helps, too."
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But while Tebow's stint in St. Lucie has included a 12-game hit streak and a walk-off home run, he's keeping everything perspective. The Mets would be loathe to use a 40-man roster spot on a 29-year-old corner outfielder with a limited ceiling, and Alderson recently confirmed that he doesn't envision the former Heisman Trophy winner playing in the major leagues any time soon.
"It's a dangerous place to be as an athlete," Tebow said when asked about a potential promotion. "You don't want to think about that. I've got to think about the here, I've got to think about the now, I've got to think about what I'm doing…This journey isn't just about the destination. It's about every single day. It's about the competition against the pitcher. It's about the camaraderie with my teammates. It's about enjoying every moment."
At 43-50, the New York Mets won't compete for a playoff spot this year. Tebow's presence would draw some nice late-season crowds to Citi Field, but it will take more than a hot month to secure an unlikely call-up to the game's top level. He'll continue his season against the Florida Fire Frogs on Friday night.
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