It was always a long shot—the longest shot—but the dream is no more. Tim Tebow has announced his retirement from baseball.
“It has been a pleasure to have Tim in our organization as he’s been a consummate professional during his four years with the Mets,” Sandy Alderson said in a statement regarding the controversial quarterback-turned-outfielder that he signed. “By reaching the Triple-A level in 2019, he far exceeded expectations when he first entered the system in 2016 and he should be very proud of his accomplishments.”
In August 2016, Tebow and then-agent Brodie Van Wagenen shocked the baseball world by announcing that the NFL veteran was interested in playing professional baseball. According to Van Wagenen, “This may sound like a publicity stunt, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen Tim’s workouts, and people inside and outside the industry—scouts, executives, players and fans—will be impressed by his talent. As an agent, I have a genuine respect for how hard it is to succeed at the game of baseball and a true admiration for those who possess the talent to play it at the major league level. Tim’s tool set is real. His physicality is unique in professional baseball. His work ethic is unprecedented, and his passion for the game is infectious. He knows the challenges that lie ahead of him given his age and experience, but he is determined to achieve his goal of playing in the major leagues.”
Tebow had not played baseball since 2004, his junior year of high school. Though home schooled, he was allowed to play team sports at Allen D. Nease High School, a public school in Ponte Vedra, Florida. Before focusing exclusively on football, he also played basketball and baseball, and many agree that if he had focused on the diamond instead of the gridiron, there is a good chance Tebow could have gone on to have to have a meaningful baseball career in some capacity. In the end, the Mets won the Tebow sweepstakes and came to terms with one of the most talked about free agents in the baseball world.
A few weeks later, Tebow was assigned to the Scottsdale Scorpions, the Mets’ Arizona Fall League affiliate. Scouts and executives had mixed opinions on the former Heisman Trophy’s future as a baseball prospect, seeing the transaction as a marketing and PR ploy more than anything else, and their instincts were generally proven correct in his first taste of professional baseball life. The converted outfielder performed exactly as everyone imagined he would have, hitting .194/.296/.242 in 19 games with the Scorpions.
He began the 2017 season with the Columbia Fireflies and hit .220/.311/.336 in 64 games before getting promoted to St. Lucie for the remainder of the season, where he hit .231/.307/.356 in 62 games, giving him a .226/.309/.347 batting line for the season with 8 homers. Not exactly on a normal developmental schedule, Tebow was promoted despite his performance, assigned to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies for the 2018 season. To his credit, he did not embarrass himself in the 84 games he played that year, hitting .273/.336/.399 with 6 home runs before having his season end prematurely after breaking his right hamate bone in late July. He was sent to Syracuse for the 2019 season and once again had his season end early, this time due to a deep cut on his left pinky that was taking longer than anticipated to heal properly. Unlike his 2018 campaign, the 31-year-old did not look good in his first taste of Triple-A baseball, hitting a paltry .163/.240/.255 with four home runs in 77 games. He was slated to rejoin Syracuse for the 2020 season, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the season was cancelled.
If Tebow had forwent football and honed his baseball skills since his teenage years, he certainly had the athleticism and physicality to excel in baseball, but the disadvantages from such a lengthy absence from playing at a competitive level virtually doomed him from the start. His hit tool was considered well-below average, his swing lengthy, stiff, and slow. His pitch recognition and zone awareness were equally poor, adding to his problems. His raw power graded favorably and was generally considered average-to-above-average, but the challenges he had making contact severely impacted his ability to bring that raw power into games. In the outfield, Tebow was limited to left field, and his performance there was also well below average, as expected. Because of his limited reps there in organized games, he was extremely raw in the field, slow to react to balls and struggling to run the most efficient routes. As a football player, Tebow’s major weakness was his throwing ability and that was a liability as a baseball player as well.
While there were many questions about his baseball skills, nobody could question his work ethic and character. Outside of contractual obligations with ESPN and the SEC Network, Tebow did not let his celebrity status go to his head. He was a positive influence on his teammates, putting in the same work they put in and going through the same minor league trials and tribulations as they did. While a former, disgruntled player alluded to the Mets making “a mockery of our team by putting a celebrity on it,” his claims were not echoed by any other teammates, publicly or off-the-record. More tangible evidence to his commitment and character than veiled hearsay and hurt feelings was the friendship he struck up with Tommy Smith, beloved Trenton Thunder batboy. A loyal Yankees fan, Tebow instantly became Smith’s favorite player when the Binghamton Rumble Ponies first came to Trenton in June 2018. The two formed a bond in the very brief time they had together to the point that Tebow requested Smith switch sides and perform bat boy duties with the Rumble Ponies, which he did.
Now cracks a noble heart.
Goodnight, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.