PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida — Unlike the other New York Mets minor leaguers who showed up at spring training Monday, Tim Tebow drew a crowd in the parking lot, sat down for a 25-minute news conference and could have walked a few doors down to the team store at First Data Field and purchased his own jersey for $120.
Soon, though, the fan support and his success as a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback are going to do him scant good trying to hit a curveball. He’s aware of that.
“I don’t think it’s a bigger challenge than I thought. Obviously, it’s a big challenge, right?” Tebow said. “You’re picking up a sport after 12 years of not playing it, but I understood it. I think part of the challenge in it being so hard is part of why it’s something I’m enjoying and loving. It’s a hard game. It’s not an easy thing to do. Hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things in sports, but I’m enjoying it very much.”
On Monday, Tebow, 29, joined a group of the Mets’ top prospects in advance of minor league spring training camp and addressed the notion that he is with the organization largely so they could market his name. After his news conference, he retreated to the back fields to work out with his minor league teammates, some of whom are a decade younger than him.
“I’m not going to worry about what everyone’s writing or what everyone’s thinking or however I’m being marketed,” Tebow said. “I think for me, I just want to be able to continue the process, enjoy the process, enjoy every day and get to know my teammates and have fun out there.”
Last September, Tebow signed a $100,000 minor league deal with the Mets. He went 4-for-14 in instructional league games and batted .194 with three doubles and 20 strikeouts in 62 at-bats in the prospect-rich Arizona Fall League. Once minor league spring training games begin here, he — like the other young players — will be attempting to make a good impression on the team’s decision-makers. He declined to predict whether he will ever make the major leagues.
“I don’t have to give my chances,” Tebow said.
Tebow worked out at times over the winter with National League MVP runner-up Daniel Murphy in Jacksonville. Murphy, the ex-Met and Washington Nationals second baseman, told reporters Tebow’s power is “real.”
“He just needs that experience to pull from, which only a full season can give you,” Murphy said.
Tebow said his ultimate goal isn’t necessarily to play in the major leagues. He hasn’t played organized baseball since high school. He played 35 NFL games with the Denver Broncos and New York Jets and finished with a passer rating of 75.3.
“The ultimate goal is to enjoy it every day and I can honestly sit here in front of every one of you and say I’ve had so much fun training, pursuing it, getting hits, striking out, whatever it’s been,” he said. “Today’s just the next day in the process.”
After his news conference, Tebow reported to Field No. 5 at the Mets’ complex with a handful of other low minor-league prospects. With a powerful left-handed swing, he launched nine home runs, mostly to left field and right-center field, in four rounds of batting practice. After, Tebow signed autographs and posed for photos for about three dozen fans who congregated along the chain-link fence. At several points, he ignored a Mets’ public-relations official about wrapping it up to continue to sign and interact with fans.
“He’s just very charismatic and honest and humble and kind, all the good things you look for in a person at heart,” said Susan Colton, a retired elementary school principal from Pompano Beach who bought her Tebow T-shirt on-line. “I appreciate positive role models.”
ESPN contributed to this post.