Tim Tebow, failed pro football player, soon to be failed pro baseball player
When I heard that Tim Tebow was going to try a career in pro baseball, I pulled a retina rolling my eyes.
Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion quarterback at Florida, didn’t have the skill set to thrive at the game’s most important position in the NFL. That dream has long since died.
Still one of the most popular athletes in the country for his All-American attitude and God-first way of life, he has tasted plenty of success beyond the gridiron. His television work on ESPN is commendable. His charitable nature has reached legendary status. Unlike most ex-players, football doesn’t define who he is.
But he hasn’t played baseball since high school. To think he’ll make the big leagues one day is laughable.
Tebow in the cage. Judge for yourself. You tell me if that swing gets past AA. pic.twitter.com/7Ij0pfK5cv
— BEAU BISHOP (@BeauBishop) August 9, 2016
I have a little history with Tebow. When he was winning a state title for Nease High School as a senior, I was covering high school sports for the Florida Times-Union. I covered a handful of his games and interviewed him more than once. One of his assistant coaches, Danny Cowgill, was a childhood friend of mine.
Years later, at the Scouting Combine, I wrote several columns detailing his jump from college to the NFL.
Despite the fact that he tore FSU limb from limb for the entirety of his stay in Gainesville, I always said that he was perhaps the most genuine athlete I ever covered. What a worker. What a leader. He was special.
Ultimately, he didn’t have enough arm talent to make it on Sunday. That miracle run he had with the Denver Broncos was just that — a miracle. The New York Jets got more snaps out of him as a punt protector than a passer. The New England Patriots had no use for Tebow and released him. Ditto for the Philadelphia Eagles.
QB is the hardest position to play in all of sports. But hitting a baseball is the hardest singular skill.
Ignore the fact that Tebow hit .494 as a high school junior — that was 2005, the last time he played the game on a full-time basis. In those days, Nease was a smaller school playing relatively weak competition.
It was also 11 years ago. Considering the caliber of pitching Tebow was facing at the prep level, it’s safe to assume that rarely did he dig into the batter’s box facing anyone that could crack 80 miles per hour on a radar gun. Today, every Major League Baseball team has a bullpen full of arms throwing in the high-90s.
The MLB Draft is 40 rounds. It used to be longer. Clubs take flyers on football players all the time.
Tebow’s name has never been called. Charlie Ward, a Heisman winner himself with the ‘Noles, also “retired” from baseball post-high school. Yet he was still selected in the baseball draft. And not just once. Two times.
Matt LaPorta, taken No. 7 overall in the 2007 baseball draft, was the best hitter on campus during Tebow’s time in Gainesville. He was an All-American and the first collegian voted SEC Player of the Year twice. In 59 games as a senior, he hit .402 and slugged .817 in as tough a conference as any in the NCAA.
LaPorta made it to the majors at age 24. He was chewed up and spit out by 28. Tebow turns 29 in five days.
LaPorta, as a matter of fact, was a fullback on his high school team in Port Charlotte, Fla. He might have better odds of scoring a touchdown in the NFL than Tebow does of hitting a home run in the major leagues.
According to the ESPN report, Tebow has been hitting and fielding in Arizona for the better part of a year in order to give baseball another shot. Chad Moeller, a former catcher with 11 years of big-league service time — career average? .226 — has been impressed with Tebow’s ability and, since it’s Tebow, work ethic.
Moeller’s comments, of course, were part of a statement from Tebow’s agent. It’s PR spin and nothing else.
Brittany Ghiroli, who covers the Baltimore Orioles for MLB.com, told me that Tebow is basically kidding himself:
“These guys spend years, day in and day out, cultivating their craft. To say that it’s something someone can just pick up, with no pro baseball background, is wildly inaccurate. The thing about baseball is even the best in the world fail most of the time. You hear guys go through these horrible slumps. But it takes a ridiculous amount of talent and skill to pick up a 99-mile-per-hour fastball and hit it somewhere no one is. People don’t realize just how hard it is. Orioles manager Buck Showalter consistently brings up the fact that he thinks it’s the hardest thing to do in all of sports. Just look at the numbers.”
At the 2010 combine, during his podium session, I asked Tebow what he would do if the NFL didn’t work out:
“I’d do what I’ve been doing with the rest of my life, and that’s trying to invest in people’s lives and run my non-profit organizations and try to get those bigger — to put a smile on kids’ faces that most people don’t care about and just try to give kids a brighter day. That’s what my foundation is all about, is giving kids a brighter day, especially in their darkest hour of need. That’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life, and that’s what I’m most passionate about. I’m more passionate about that than I’ve ever been about football.”
Needless to say, there was zero baseball talk. I didn’t know he had ever played. I doubt anyone else did.
— 10 (@SimplyAJ10) August 9, 2016
If he is so starved for competition, he should become a CrossFit athlete. He’s clearly in amazing physical shape. Then Tebow could just train — all day, every day — and never have to throw a pass or swing a bat.
By all accounts, Tebow is far from desperate. Again, he’s not bad as a TV analyst and perfectly suited for the SEC Network viewership. No doubt he could have a lucrative career as a motivational speaker. There are Florida alumni clubs coast to coast that would pay big coin for autographs and selfie opportunities alone.
But this is a desperate move. And it’s destined to fail — miserably. It won’t brighten one kid’s day, either.