COLUMBIA, S.C. — Tim Tebow won’t let critics take away from what he hopes to be a long, successful career playing professional baseball.
They do have plenty of ammo.
“As an athlete, I think you always try to use negativity from outside sources as fuel, but at the same time, I try not to even listen to it,” Tebow said. “People say, ‘Do you let it go in one ear and out the other?’
“I say, ‘No, I try not to even let it get to where I hear it.’ I don’t listen to the radio. I don’t watch that much TV. I love what I do and I’m blessed to be able to play the game that I started playing when I was 4 years old.
“I’m excited about getting a chance to compete every single day, where the wins and losses, they count.”
On Sunday, Tebow reported for duty to the Columbia Fireflies, the Class A minor league affiliate for the New York Mets.
Sporting a grin from ear to ear, the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback told reporters that he’s excited for his next step in professional baseball, which begins Thursday night at Spirit Communications Park.
“It’s a blessing,” Tebow said. “It’s a lot of fun. Spring was really enjoyable. It was a huge learning opportunity for me, with so many of the players and coaches and mentors that I got to be around and this is another step in that process. It’s a new opportunity.”
Fireflies manager Jose Leger will start Tebow in left field against the Augusta GreenJackets on Thursday night.
“He’s been working very hard since the spring,” Leger said. “I got an opportunity to meet him during the spring and he’s making progress by the day, so we’re very happy to have him here and very happy to work with him.”
For Leger and the rest of the Fireflies staff, it helps that his oldest player is a quick learner.
“I’ve been talking to him and he just grasps on things very easily,” Leger said, “so it’s very easy to work with him.”
What may not be so easy is the potential for outside distraction, which accompanies Tebow’s arrival. However, Leger doesn’t anticipate that being an issue.
“I think he’s going to serve more as an asset to the players. … He brings more experience to the table. I think, more than anything, it’s a motivation, a spark for the team,” Leger said.
Former South Carolina star Gene Cone looks forward to sharing the Fireflies outfield with Tebow.
“He’s a great competitor. Obviously, we know he’s a great competitor. The man won two national championships, so he’s a great guy,” Cone said. “He’s a great locker room guy. I think everybody is gelling around him pretty good.”