PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Once Grapefruit League games begin, crowds at the Mets' Spring Training back fields tend to dwindle, as the organization's biggest stars limit their time to the main stadium. Only the most diehard Minor League fans, friends and families of players still congregate near the chain-link fences, watching the Mets' next wave of talent develop.
That will change at least temporarily today, when Tim Tebow rolls into Port St. Lucie for his first official day of Spring Training. Tebow is reporting roughly a week early to participate in the Mets' STEP camp, which the organization reserves for its most intriguing prospects.
After participating in a morning news conference, Tebow was expected to draw a crowd as he takes his first batting practice cuts and shags his first fly balls.
The Mets are prepared to embrace the scene.
"This game's about our fans," manager Terry Collins said. "It will always be about our fans. And this guy, he's a special person. He's a tremendous athlete. He's got a huge name in the sports world. And he's in our organization trying to be a baseball player. I'm certainly not going to take anything away from that. I salute him for what he's trying to do. It's not going to be easy. It's going to be very difficult."
While Collins will not have much hands-on time with Tebow, quipping that he's "got enough on my plate with what I've got here," the Mets are taking the former Heisman Trophy-winning football player's conversion to baseball seriously. Tebow signed with the Mets last summer, making his first appearance in Port St. Lucie during Instructional League. From there, he reported to the Arizona Fall League, batting .194 with 20 strikeouts in 70 plate appearances.
At age 29, Tebow is unlikely ever to make a big league roster. But the Mets do plan to use him in Grapefruit League games once he grows comfortable in Minor League camp.
If nothing else, the organization believes he can have a positive impact on other prospects.
"I don't know him," Collins said. "I've never met him. But I know he's a tremendous competitor, and I know he's a winner, and that's going to mean a lot in that big clubhouse full of young kids over there."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.