After eight years, Tim Tebow is heading back to Florida. Almost a decade after leading the Florida Gators to a national championship on the football field, the former Heisman Trophy winner is returning to the Sunshine State to pursue his baseball career, as the New York Mets announced Sunday that they are promoting Tebow to the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League, the parent club’s High-A affiliate in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Tebow, who graduated high school in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., about 240 miles north of Port St. Lucie on Florida’s east coast. Other than a 2011 NFL game at Miami, Tebow has not played a professional regular-season game in Florida since leaving the Gators after the 2009 college football season.
ESPN reported the move on Sunday, despite the fact that Tim Tebow has struggled at the plate for most of the season. Tebow leads the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies of the Low-A South Atlantic League in doubles, but is hitting just .222 with three home runs, two of which came in his first month with Columbia.
Still, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson decided to promote Tebow and three other minor leaguers to Port St. Lucie, citing Tebow’s vision at the plate and the speed of the ball coming off his bat as reasons for his promotion.
Off the field, the move is expected to pay financial dividends for the Mets, as the prospect of Tebowmania has gripped the South Atlantic League and will likely continue in the Florida State League. The Fireflies finished a respectable sixth in attendance in 2016, but with Tim Tebow in right field, Columbia has led the South Atlantic League in attendance and is projected to pass 200,000 fans for the year when it plays Kannapolis at home Sunday night in Tebow’s final game with the Fireflies.
However, the New York Mets saw none of that boon, as the Fireflies are an independently-owned team on an affiliation agreement with the parent club. By contrast, the Mets themselves own the St. Lucie Mets, meaning that the parent club receives 100 percent of the revenue from the St. Lucie franchise. Given the popularity of Tebow in the South Atlantic League and his popularity from his time with the Gators, sales of tickets and apparel for the squad are likely to sharply increase with Tebow’s arrival.
As for on the field, Tim Tebow joins a St. Lucie squad that finished 7.5 games out of first place in the first half of the season and has started the second half with a 1-3 mark. Tebow is likely to begin his time with St. Lucie on Tuesday night, when the Mets open a home series against the Palm Beach Cardinals.
Readers, do you expect Tim Tebow to succeed in St. Lucie, or is he likely to struggle? What are your thoughts on the Mets promoting him? Are you a fan of Tebowmania? Sound off in the comments below and like and share this story!
Commentary by Dan Angell
Photo Courtesy Tim Tebow/Twitter