Tim Tebow is headed to Baseball Heaven, and the Mets and the majors, much to the despair of the millions who wish he would just go away. Meanwhile, the tens of millions who adore him and believe he deserved better from the NFL and project him as some kind of sports superhero sent from God are preparing to rejoice.
Tebow was, is and always will be a figure who divides us. His doubters underestimate him. His supporters overestimate him. This clash is so much fun to watch.
“Tim Tebow’s Batting Average Is Risen Today, Hallelujah!” read a sarcastic recent online headline. I love it.
Don’t get me wrong. Tebow will find limited, and perhaps no, success when he’s promoted to play with the Mets at Citi Field in Queens. The best pitchers in the world will feast on him, and he’s too old, at 30, to shed his many shortcomings at the plate.
But he will, I believe, get there. Tebow hit .318 in June with hits in 16 of 22 games for the Mets Double-A affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y. You might have seen the YouTube video of Tebow, the outfielder, getting smacked in the head with a fly ball off the wall.
Remember this: He went 3 for 4 from the plate in the same game.
The main reason the Mets will call up Tebow is the franchise has nothing to lose. The Mets started with a roar in 2018, winning 12 of 14 games while briefly resembling a powerhouse. It was, alas, an impersonation. They lost 47 of 69 after the glorious start.
Why call up Tebow?
Here’s the best answer: He always arrives with the guarantee of selling tickets.
If you spend time around Tebow, and I have, his enthusiasm and grinding work ethic and sincerity will convert you from doubter to believer. When Tebow played for the Broncos, he won every sprint drill. Not most of the drills. All of them. Sure, his left arm was a looming disaster, but nobody worked with more tenacious diligence.
For a brief time, not so long ago, it looked as if Tebow would take a rowdy, distinctive ride to a long career in the NFL. Despite his suspect left arm, he turned fourth quarters into outrageously entertaining comeback sagas that resembled pickup games in your backyard. He carried a flawed Bronco team to the 2011 AFC West title and a stunning playoff win over the Steelers. (And a crushing, season-ending loss to the Patriots.)
Then Peyton Manning — slow of foot, mighty of arm — rode into town.
Tebow was not completely done at that point. He was only almost completely done. No NFL team would defy our pass-happy times and hand its offense over to run-first Tebow. He threw eight passes after departing the Broncos.
I thought Tebow would become a prosperous broadcaster/book writer/cultural icon. He is the rare athlete more about life off the field than on the field. He’s one of America’s highest-profile — and most authentic and admirable — Christians. Tebow isn’t one to talk all the time about his devotion to following Christ. He’s too busy actually following Christ.
But he refused to step away from sport. When Tebow announced his plan to play baseball, he seemed doomed to become a sad circus act, a big name playing in tiny minor league stadiums. He had not played competitive baseball for a decade.
He’s defied the skeptics, who included me. He’s not going to become an MLB all-star, or even a regular starter, but he’s destined for at least a few MLB at-bats.
“If I’m not remembered for baseball, that’s OK,” Tebow told People magazine. “If I’m not remembered for football, that’s OK, too. Actually, it’s fine if I’m not remembered at all. What I want is to serve God by helping people who are less fortunate. That’s what’s important, not playing a sport.”
I realize many of you are groaning as you read Tebow’s words. I also realize many more of you are clapping, if only in your heart.
“If I’m not remembered for baseball, that’s OK. If I’m not remembered for football, that’s OK, too. Actually, it’s fine if I’m not remembered at all.” Tim Tebow
to People Magazine