Two hits, diving catch highlight Tebow's return to camp

After a weekend in broadcast booth, former football star shines on diamond

Two hits, diving catch highlight Tebow's return to camp

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Clad in a mixture of New York Mets and Florida Gators gear, Tim Tebow's fans pushed up on every boundary to see every move he made on Tuesday. As Tebow paced the outfield grade on Field 7 before drills started, a trio of fans passed around a pair of binoculars, looking for his No. 15 jersey until excitedly spotting it.

When Tebow did agility drills on Field 4 -- a simple quick run -- fans seemed awed at just the sight of him putting one leg in front of another. "THANK YOU TIM TEBOW" read an orange and blue sign that two fans held against the caged backstop, fruitless in their attempt to catch Tebow's attention.

"I try not to even pay attention to it. I try to be one of the guys as a baseball player here," Tebow said. "Just try to work and perform and improve and get better, and have that as my mentality every day. Then after practice, you can sign and make other people happy and shake their hands."

Tebow continued his second week of instructional league on Tuesday, and again he was the center of attention -- with a crowd of more than 100 people following him to each stop he made at the Mets' Spring Training complex.

In a three-inning intrasquad game, Tebow finished 2-for-3 with two singles and a strikeout. He made both his plays in left field, including a diving catch to end the game. Tebow attempted a steal of third and scored on the same play when the ball was put in play.

"I honestly feel every day I get a little more comfortable," Tebow said, "just being able to see live pitches and live at-bats. I think just every approach, every day, all the work we're putting in -- we're getting better every day, that's the goal."

In his first at-bat, Tebow struck out swinging on a fastball. In his second, he blooped a single into center field. The third was Tebow's most impressive, as he took a 93 mph fastball on the outside corner and shot it to the opposite field.

On the last play of the day, a ball was crushed to the left-center-field gap. Tebow went into a full sprint and made an over-the-shoulder play as he dove to the ground. He got up with his jersey completely covered in dirt.

"I've laid out a couple times already in practices," Tebow said with a chuckle. "I've practiced some. Probably not at the same speed or tempo."

As Tebow walked off the field, every person who came to watch him play stood on either side of the orange walkway, holding out camera phones for photos and pens to sign memorabilia. Tebow took every photo and signed every autograph, appeasing the fans who waited in the nearly 100-degree heat for three hours.

Tebow had spent the previous weekend traveling for work on the SEC Network. When he was there, everyone wanted to talk about his job with the Mets. When Tebow made a good point during a broadcast, his co-anchors joked that he "hit a home run." A bad point was a "swing and a miss."

It's been a fun experience for Tebow, and right now he's a big fish in a small pond, playing at the same level as the 56 others on the roster. On Wednesday, he'll face live pitching against another team. The Cardinals are coming from Jupiter, Fla., to play the Mets at noon ET. It will be Tebow's first real instructional league game.

"I'm just trying to get used to the process," Tebow said. "The whole routine of it. The more that it becomes the norm, hopefully the more consistent you can be, and the better you can pick everything up."

Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.