Tim Tebow likes challenges, and it shows. After hitting .220/.311/.336 in 64 games for the New York Mets’ low-A affiliate in Columbia, South Carolina, the 29-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner was promoted to the high-A St.Lucie Mets, where his batting averages have soared to .306/.390/.514.
That 90-point leap in batting average doesn’t really make sense, but then, Tebow hadn't played in a competitive baseball game since his junior year of high school before signing with the Mets last September.
It was, apparently, a simple matter of getting comfortable. Tebow said simply, “I think I’m more comfortable seeing more pitches.” Tebow told 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.
Natera was impressed, saying Tebow has “made a big jump from spring training to now.” He added:
Spring training was too early to say something about it, but he was rough. Too much body in his swing. For a guy who didn’t play a game for years — and he’s a big, strong kid — he had too much body in his swing. Now he’s using his legs and his hands much better. A much more fluid swing. Now he’s pulling the ball the right way.
As USA Today reports:
Tebow had a 12-game hitting streak from July 3-14 and has hit as many home runs (three) in 22 games with St. Lucie as he hit in Columbia. He had driven in a run in five of the previous seven games heading into Thursday's action and has considerably cut down his strikeout rate (one in every 5.5 at-bats in St. Lucie compared to one in every 3.1 in Columbia).
Despite New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson saying he didn’t “foresee” calling Tebow up to the big leagues, Tebow remained his usual upbeat self, typically leaving his ego at the door. He said:
It’s a dangerous place to be as an athlete. 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. Wherever it ends, I’m going to have fun.
Tebow’s return to Florida, where in halcyon days he won the Heisman Trophy at the University of Florida in 2007, has been a boon for the minor league teams there; Florida State League President Ken Carson told The Orlando Sentinel:
Even if he strikes out, everyone cheers him. They’ve got their cameras out, taking video and taking photos. I’m talking everybody. My wife and I were sitting with some of the Mets’ staff [in St. Lucie]. They were like little kids. He hit a home run, and they were jumping up, high-fiving each other. He’s got some excitement all over. I’m happy he’s here.’’
Joe Harrington, the president of the Florida Fire Frogs, who will host the St. Lucie Mets this weekend for a four-game series, noted that each game Tebow plays will surpass attendance for the previous high for the season. He added, “We are going to see some people who may not have been out to the ballpark yet, and we are going to be able to capture them."