In 11 years experiencing Mets spring training, I have never seen dozens of human beings react to another person the way people reacted to Tim Tebow on Sunday. And, though I don't believe he'll ever see a pitch in the Major Leagues, I like that he's in big-league camp because I think just as much can be gained from his personality, positivity, and passion as can be gained from him as a player.
Tebow hit Sunday morning on Field 4 alongside Dave Thompson and other notable minor leaguers. By the way, Thompson is a horse, he crushes the ball, and looks more like a first baseman or left fielder than a long-term answer at third base.
Finished hitting, like all players, Tebow helped collect baseballs, tossed them in a bucket, and collected his gear. However, unlike any other player to ever walk these grounds after moving from one field to another, Tebow was magnetically mobbed by fans, some of which were screaming and crying. I'm serious, as if he was a deity in blue and orange, I literally witnessed two older woman losing their breath and in tears. Media swarmed, snapping pictures. I even saw a legendary, well-respected ESPN reporter rush over, snap a picture, walk away and, after looking at his phone, he smiled like an adoring fan. Again, this was new to me...
On the other hand, while impressed and taking pictures, I couldn't stop laughing, not because it was comedy, but because the whole 30 seconds were so damn unique and fascinating and entertaining and bizarre. Two years ago, I walked this same stretch with Mike Piazza, and he didn't come close to receiving this level response. Like I saw, fascinating...
I rolled my eyes earlier in the day when Alderson said, "I think he will play in the major leagues," which he moments later described as his "hope," and, "modest expectation."
Tebow worked with a coach this off season on his swing. He also adjusted his conditioning program to get into baseball shape, which was something he had not had time to do in 12 years. And, I will say, while he physically looks more like a baseball player than a year ago, and while his swing is 'better,' he still doesn't look like a future big leaguer to me, which is only accentuated by him being 30 years old.
Like most media and fans, after watching him last season and seeing him hit Sunday, I took Alderson's statement to be more of a courtesy and show of respect than a sign of Tebow's future.
However, after seeing the way Mickey Callaway leaned alone on a wall in the back of the room studying Tebow during the late day press conference, I think Alderson is stating his truth.
It's hard to believe. Tebow can hit. But, most everyone in a uniform can hit, especially when being thrown light fastballs during a batting practice session in late February. To be fair, when Tebow connects, he crushes the ball. But, so did Thompson and countless other minor-league hitters I watched earlier in the day. The different is that, while Tebow looks passable from behind the cage or in select video, when watching head on, he hits like a lumberjack.
I respect and appreciate his work ethic and passion and dedication to improve, and he has. But he's 30 years old, and still his upper body is out in front, his elbow is open and his legs never move. And so, while he may be able to hit a nice BP and even belt a home run or two in a low-level minor league game, until I see him produce against upper level pitching - let alone big-league pitching - it's hard to take seriously that he'll ever stand in a batter's box at Citi Field.
The thing is, despite his swing and that he throws like he's trying to land crumbled paper in a waste basket, I no longer doubt that he may actually one day be on Alderson's 40-man roster, while sitting in the dugout during a series of games in September. I say this, because, if he has developed legit relationships with teammates up to that point, his energy and attitude has value. It can be seen in how teammates, fans and media react to him.
I have no idea what that means from a baseball perspective, especially as it pertains to winning and losing and helping teammates be better and more productive versions of themselves. However, I'm thinking maybe Alderson does...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!