Tim Tebow has been a common target of criticism.
His devotion to Christianity has come with endless irrational hatred that manifests itself in glee when he fails.
But even his staunchest critics had to smile at what he just did.
After a brief stint in the NFL, Tebow made the decision to pursue professional baseball, a sport he hadn’t played since high school (when he was a respectable prospect).
His baseball journey has been up and down with flashes of brilliance interspersed. One of those flashes came in his first at-bat of the Double A season when he blasted a homerun.
From The New York Times:
Tim Tebow certainly has the flair for the dramatic.
On the first pitch of his first at-bat with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (yes, that’s the name of the Mets’ Class AA affiliate), the former Heisman Trophy winner smashed a three-run home run on Thursday.
Does that sound familiar?
Around this time last year, in his very first professional at-bat, with Class A Columbia (also known as the Fireflies), Tebow also smashed a home run.
It doesn’t end there.
After the Mets signed Tebow to a minor league deal in September 2016, he was assigned to their instructional-league team for his first taste of organized baseball since high school. Guess what happened in that first at-bat (on the first pitch, in fact).
Yes. Tebow homered.
First pitch and it’s GONE! @TimTebow goes deep in his first Double-AA at bat! We lead 5-0 into the 2nd! #LetsRumble https://t.co/gWmb8wVQL6
Now the most famous person in minor league baseball, Tebow won the Heisman as the University of Florida’s quarterback in 2007, and won two national football titles during his collegiate career. He had a short career in the N.F.L., playing for the Jets and the Denver Broncos. He attracted both adulation and scorn for his overt Christian faith and for a habit known as “Tebowing,” when he bowed in prayer after a success.
Tebow decided to give baseball a try in 2016, when he was 29. Last year, in his first full season in the Mets’ minor leagues, Tebow hit .226 with eight home runs, 52 R.B.I. and 126 strikeouts in 126 games. He improved as the season progressed and was promoted from Columbia to Class A-Advanced St. Lucie. With that club, he hit a home run in his first game, though not in his first at-bat.
His progress earned him an invitation to the Mets’ major league camp this year.
With a swing he had changed in the off-season, Tebow notched just one hit in 18 at-bats. He was slowed by an ankle sprain he sustained in late February when he tripped on a sprinkler head in the outfield at the Mets’ spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
But earlier in spring training, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson praised Tebow’s work ethic, power and positive influence on teammates — as well as on minor league baseball over all, by bringing in more fans. Alderson even admitted that the nature of the Tebow experiment had changed.
“I expect Tim Tebow will play in the major leagues one day,” Alderson said in mid-February.
Alderson promised to be aggressive with Tebow’s development given that he will turn 31 in August.
Tebow’s most recent homer came off the Portland Sea Dogs’ Teddy Stankiewicz, a right-handed pitcher who was a second-round draft pick for the Mets in 2012. Stankiewicz ended up going to college and then being chosen in the second round of the 2013 draft by the Red Sox.
Should Tebow reach Class AAA Las Vegas or the major leagues, fans will certainly hope for a repeat of his opening ritual.
Tebow has made undeniable progress since returning to baseball, but he still has a long way to go.
If anyone can beat the slim odds of making it all the way to the majors, it will be someone with Tebow’s perseverance.