COLUMBIA, S.C. – Tim Tebow is just a 29-year-old boy with a dream of playing big league baseball. The path to making it a reality continues on Thursday night.
The Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback will start in left field when the New York Mets Class A affiliate Columbia Fireflies open South Atlantic League play at 7:05 p.m. from Spirit Communications Park.
“It was something that I always loved. It was my first love, when I started playing it when I was 4-years-old,” Tebow said. “It’s something that never really got too far away from my heart, even when I was playing football, I’d always watch. I’ve wanted to get back out there on the field and play.
“When I was talking to some people, I thought it would be a fun little journey, so I decided to take the leap.”
In 27 spring training at-bats with the Mets, Tebow with .148, several points below the .194 average he finished with in Arizona Fall League play.
“Strength-wise, he’s got some power, you can see that in batting practice,” Fireflies manager Jose Leger said. “He can hit it a long way. He’s coming along. He’s practicing very hard, brings good character to the team, good experience, as far as being an elite athlete. … He’s made progress and doing everything we’ve asked of him.
“He’s working in the outfield, getting ready defensively, just base running, throwing, everything. He’s made a lot of progress since spring training.”
Fireflies shortstop Michael Paez, who’s entering his first full season of minor league ball, is impressed with the way Tebow goes about his business.
“He works so hard. He gets a lot of scrutiny. But, at the same time, he doesn’t let it bother him,” Paez said. “It’s great to see. It’s kind of teaching us young guys how we should treat ourselves and how we should carry ourselves. He works so hard. He’s here early in the morning hitting. He’s the latest one to leave. It’s crazy to watch.”
For a team that includes five of the Mets top 25 prospects, according to Baseball America, Tebow’s not a bad guy to have around the clubhouse.
“He’s a great guy, very humble (and) we’re happy to have him here,” Leger said. “We’re pushing for him to get to the next level and to, hopefully, pursue his dream, which is getting to the big leagues.”
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SEC Country reporter Hale McGranahan will provide updates on Twitter throughout the evening.