Tim Tebow passed and ran his way to a pair of national titles at Florida. He won the Heisman Trophy.
But his NFL career was limited to 361 passes (173 completions) with 17 TD tosses and nine interceptions. He also ran for 989 yards and 12 scores.
Tuesday marked a new stage of the polarizing athlete’s career: He’s giving baseball a shot even though he hasn’t competitively played since his junior year of high school in 2005. Tebow had at least two contract offers — not from MLB teams — before displaying his power swing Tuesday at USC.
When it comes to Tebow, everyone has an opinion. Scouts weighed in on Tebow, the prospect, before and after his workout. Orioles manager Buck Showalter scoffed. One former pitcher is impressed while a current one calls this pursuit “a slap in the face.”
Even Tebow chimed in after Tuesday’s workout: “I think it went pretty well.”
“I pull for anyone sticking their neck out to be judged,” LSU legend and former Major League Baseball infielder Todd Walker told SEC Country. “He has all the intangibles. He knows what it will take. It’s easy to pull for Tim Tebow. I wish him the best.”
And with that, we tap into some former players’ baseball expertise on the Tebow situation.
Jeff Cirillo: A 14-year player and two-time All-Star, Cirillo was a career .296 hitter and had consecutive seasons with 194, 198 and 195 hits.
Rob Dibble: A flame-throwing relief pitcher, Dibble made the National League All-Star team in 1990 and 1991. He struck out 645 batters in 477 career innings. He hosts The Rob Dibble Show on ESPN radio.
Ryan Ludwick: In 12 seasons, Ludwick hit 154 home runs and made the All-Star team with St. Louis in 2008 when he batted .299 with 37 home runs and 113 RBIs.
Phil Nevin: The No. 1 pick in the 1992 MLB Draft by San Diego, Nevin played 12 seasons and made the All-Star in 2001 when he hit .306 with 41 home runs and 126 RBIs.
Tim Salmon: The American League Rookie of the Year in 1993 with the Angels, Salmon twice finished in the top 10 voting for AL MVP. His 299 career home runs — all with the Angels — remains a franchise record.
Todd Walker: The No. 8 overall pick in the 1994 MLB Draft out of LSU, where he led the Tigers to the 1993 College World Series title. In 12 MLB seasons, Walker batted .289 with 107 homers and 1,316 hits.
Here’s what they had to say about Tebow’s quest:
What is the biggest challenge for Tebow as a hitter?
Salmon: The mental challenges are immense, which is why players spend years in the minors. Hitting in the cage or off a coach is the equivalent to me throwing pass patterns to a receiver in the park — light years away from playing quarterback in the NFL. It’s the mental side of the game that you can’t simulate aside from playing for years.
Walker: Change of speeds. A 96-mph fastball backed up by a 74-mph change or 86-mph slider with the same arm action means your swing has to be extremely quick or have a lifetime of educated guesses on counts and situations. Batting practice is one speed and grooved, so there is no real correlation.
Cirillo: The speed of the game. I watched his stroke from the side view (before Tuesday) and he has a nice setup and bat speed. The problem is that he is facing 62-mph BP pitching. Hitting is like painting — it takes years and years of fine-tuning the smaller muscles and connecting the wiring between brain and hands. That being said, this guy is a special athlete with special makeup. Do I think the Venezuelan League will be a good thing? No. You have experienced pro players in a foreign country.
Dibble: Getting comfortable and having a plan at the plate. A pitcher’s job is to make him uncomfortable and exploit his weakness.
Your advice to him would be?
Ludwick: Believe in your athletic ability.
Nevin: My advice would be to swallow some pride and tell football teams you would play tight end or H-back.
Cirillo: Play in a local fall/winter over-21 baseball league — heck, play in two or three to get the everyday reps and see if he has success at it. If he is successful at that, join the Venezuelan League. These guys are being paid to play and are going to attack him as they will not respect him at first. Therefore, advantage pitcher. Foreign country, tons of publicity. Fly low at first and when you are ready, go for it.
Is Tebow’s pursuit a positive or negative for baseball?
Dibble: Tim’s wanting to live the dream is a positive for everyone — it’s a game based on failure and very few people have the willpower to stay with it. I’m pulling for him. Kids need people to look up to, to aspire to be like and he’s a great role model. Tune out the critics.
Ludwick: I think this is great for the game. I believe Tebow is a first-class individual.
Cirillo: I love Tim Tebow. I love what he stands for and what he has done on the football field and off it. As an ex-player, I see it as a publicity stunt at first and am worried that he doesn’t realize how fast the game works at the pro level. … I think it is a positive if he succeeds or fails as it shows how hard the game is to play. If he shines, Tim Tebow will get signed and brought into a minor league spring training. Russell Wilson loves baseball but couldn’t hit. It’s a tough game.
Nevin: I don’t think it matters either way to baseball.
Salmon: There’s no such thing as bad publicity. I’m sure MLB will embrace the media coverage of one of the most dynamic athletes of today.