For those few New York Mets fans who dreamt of one day seeing Tim Tebow take the field in a regular-season game, Wednesday’s news is a killer blow. The 33-year-old former NFL quarterback called it a career after five seasons of trying and not quite succeeding to break into the major leagues.
Tim Tebow hangs up the glove
It’s already been a tumultuous offseason for the New York Mets, to put it mildly. On one hand, the team has made a splash with the acquisition of Francisco Lindor, James McCann, and Albert Almora. Their attempts to acquire other free agents, such as George Springer and Trevor Bauer, came up short.
At the same time, the Mets are dealing with enough behind-the-scenes turmoil to last a full season. Jared Porter, the same general manager who landed Lindor, was fired after only a month. Last month, hitting coordinator Ryan Ellis also lost his job due to multiple sexual harassment allegations. On top of all of that, owner Steve Cohen was caught up in the GameStop short-selling crisis last month.
Even in the midst of all this chaos, the Mets stubbornly clung to the hope that Tim Tebow could one day start for the big-league club. That hope finally ended when Tebow announced his retirement on Wednesday. The Mets made it official with this statement on their team’s Medium blog.
“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,” said team president Sandy Alderson. “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.”
The New York Mets take a chance
After the 2015 preseason, the Philadelphia Eagles released Tebow, signaling the end of his NFL career. The following year, he publicly expressed interest in playing professional baseball and held an open tryout. Apparently, he made enough of an impression for the New York Mets to sign him to a minor league contract.
Tebow’s time with the Mets was not his first rendezvous with baseball. It was, however, a return to a sport he had left behind for years. Prior to his first season in the Mets’ organization in 2016, he had not played baseball on a regular basis since 2005, when he was in junior high. However, according to ESPN, he had spent “almost the past year” honing his skills in Arizona and Los Angeles.
In addition to the Mets, Tebow also received interest from two independent minor league teams. The Frontier League’s Schaumberg Boomers and the Atlantic League’s Southern Maryland Blue Crabs sent him contract offers.
Tebow’s baseball career fizzles out
By playing both sports professionally, Tebow followed in the footsteps of great athletes such as Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, and Brian Jordan. Unfortunately, Tebow’s baseball career didn’t pan out nearly as well as any of those.
Tebow started off in the Mets’ instructional league. In his first game, he made a big splash by knocking a home run on the very first pitch he saw. Unfortunately, that turned out to be the high point of his baseball career.
According to Sports Illustrated, Tebow hit a mere .151 with one home run in the 34 spring training games he played with the big-league club. Injuries haven’t helped his cause either. In July 2018, Tebow broke a bone in his right hand, which forced him to miss the rest of that season. By then, he had reached the double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
He reached the triple-A level in 2019, playing in 77 games with the Syracuse Mets in the International League. That season, he hit .163 with 19 RBIs and four home runs. He did not get the chance to improve on that last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the minor league season.
It’s not clear whether this was all a long-winded publicity stunt or the Mets seriously believed that Tebow could become a capable major leaguer. What is clear is that Tebow has reached his ceiling in this sport and he knew it. However good a ballplayer he was in 2005, those skills were hampered by the 11 years he spent playing a completely different sport.