Speaking on Tuesday, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen would not rule out the possibility of minor-leaguer and former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow making the team's Opening Day roster in 2019.
Frankly, my initial reaction to this comment was laughter and a gigantic eye roll.
In terms of his baseball talent, Tebow is developing well for a prospect. The thing is, he's 31 years old and has yet to get an at-bat above Double-A. This alone is reason to doubt his upward mobility. Then I stopped laughing, though, and remembered this past spring training and the impact Tebow had on camp and, I thought, you know, maybe Tebow on the Mets in 2019 is not that crazy...
Van Wagenen's comments aside, Tebow is most likely to begin this coming season with either Double-A Binghamton or Triple-A Syracuse. He had been hitting .273 with six home runs and 46 RBI in 84 games in Double-A before ending his season early with a broken bone in his right hand.
In February this past spring training, then-Mets GM Sandy Alderson made a similar statement to what Van Wagenen said.
"I think he will play in the major leagues, that's my guess and that's my hope," declared Alderson.
The next day, Mets manager Mickey Callaway said the team planned to evaluate Tebow like anybody else in camp. That said, I can't shake the look in Callaway's eye and the intensity with which he watched Tebow's one and only press conference during Spring Training.
Tebow had already started his Q&A with reporters, all of whom were locked in on the former Heisman Trophy winner. I happened to be in the back of the room where Callaway slipped slowly from the doorway to the clubhouse, leaned alone on a wall in the back of the room and studied Tebow like Indiana Jones debating the removal of a long-lost treasure...
I could be creating fan fiction, because I can't be in Callaway's head. But, to me, he didn't look like a guy in awe of a football sensation, nor did he look like a casual viewer. He was paying attention to something more than a coach watching a potential fourth outfielder.
To his credit, Tebow lost 15 pounds prior to last season by switching his workout routine to better fit the requirement of a baseball player. He said he also hired a full-time hitting coach to help rework his swing.
"The goal is to get to the major leagues, for sure," Tebow said during an appearance earlier this year while promoting his book on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. "No one thinks I can do it, but I love trying to prove people wrong so I'm excited about the challenge."
Tebow received an invite to major league Spring Training this past spring and it stands to reason, especially given Van Wagenen's praise, that Tebow will be in St. Lucie again this coming February.
His swing is fine, a little aggressive, but his ability to strike the ball can be impressive. He trucks in the field like a running back and scrambles on the base paths like he's being chased by a defensive end. In other words, he has talent, I guess, and he may even improve, but -- to be honest -- how he hits and runs has absolutely nothing to do with his true value to the organization.
In my 11 years experiencing Mets spring training, I have never seen dozens upon dozens of human beings react to another person the way people reacted to Tebow.
For instance, like the handful of no-name players did a few minutes before him, I watched Tebow finish hitting BP during a routine session in St. Lucie. Like his teammates, Tebow helped collect baseballs, tossed them in a bucket, and packed up his gear. However, unlike any other player to ever walk these grounds when moving from one field to another, Tebow was magnetically mobbed by fans, some of which were screaming and -- literally -- crying. I'm serious, as if he was a deity in blue and orange, like he was Michael Jackson in the 80s, he turned a casual, care-free crowd in to a frenetic, unhinged mess by simply walking from one point to the other.
It wasn't just fans. Media swarmed, snapping pictures. I even saw a legendary, well-respected ESPN reporter (who I will not name so not to embarrass him) rush over, snap a picture, walk away and, after looking at his phone, he smiled with glee texting it to a colleague or friend. 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 super-quick and violent 30 seconds were so damn unique and fascinating and entertaining and bizarre. Two years ago, I walked this exact same stretch with Mike Piazza, who is as close to Mets royalty as you can find, and he didn't come close to receiving this level response. Like I said, the whole thing was fascinating.
I want so badly to join the chorus of skeptics that hover above Tebow's entire career. But, I can't, because -- much to my desire to feel otherwise -- I left last February feeling thankful that he's in the organization. Because -- as crazy as it sounds -- I actually think his personality, positivity, and passion alone may be worthy of a roster spot.
The fact is, he has developed legit relationships with teammates, most of whom grew up idolizing and being inspired by him as a college football God. I have no idea what any of that means to a major league baseball team, 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, Callaway and Van Wagenen do. And, sooner than later, we may too.
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!