Hats off to former football star for fulfilling another dream
By Richard Justice
Here's hoping Tim Tebow smacks a couple of line drives, steals a base and gets a standing ovation or two on Wednesday. Wouldn't that be a cool thing? You know it would.
To think a guy could go from playing one sport at the highest level to competing in another is one of those stories worth embracing on every level.
Who cares if Tebow doesn't make it? That's not even the point. This is about trying. This is about living a dream, and isn't that why we love sports in the first place? If he didn't give it a shot, he would always wonder what could have been.
So when the Mets start Tebow at designated hitter against the Red Sox and 2016 American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello on Wednesday, we'll have one of the most interesting days of Spring Training.
For some reason, some people have criticized Tebow for doing this and the Mets for signing him. Nothing could be more ridiculous. Why begrudge a guy who has conducted himself with grace and dignity at every turn?
Is he getting an opportunity simply because his name is Tim Tebow? Because he might sell a few tickets? Child, please, let's not be naive. There's nothing wrong with that, either.
Don't tell me Tebow is stealing an opportunity from someone. In the end, they'll all get their chance.
You will hear people say Tebow has no chance of sticking with the Mets, that he's the longest of long shots.
We're talking about the most difficult game on earth. When a team drafts 50 players, it hopes to find, maybe, two that can help the Major League team.
To show up at Spring Training knowing every swing will be scrutinized puts the entire experience in a different light.
So, no, a 29-year-old former football player probably is not going to make it. But it'll be great fun watching him try.
I speak as one who traveled through the Minor Leagues with Michael Jordan for a time in 1994, and that was one of the coolest experiences I've had in sports.
Here's a guy who was the best basketball player ever walking away from the Chicago Bulls at 31 years old. Jordan wanted to give baseball a try. Who knows why? Never mind that. All MJ did that summer was energize every Minor League city he visited. His teammates loved him, too.
He brought that whole MJ thing to the ballpark, that is, the relentless work ethic and swagger. You'll look up his numbers from that summer -- .202 batting average in 127 games at Double-A -- and you'll conclude he failed.
Jordan did not fail. To walk off an NBA court and to show he could compete against some of the best baseball players in the world was a remarkable accomplishment.
Besides that, he fulfilled a dream. That's how I feel about Tebow. In the end, his performance will decide whether he belongs or not.
For Tebow to have the guts to put on a baseball uniform and give it a try says so much about his confidence and resilience. The last thing these guys ever want to do is embarrass themselves.
There were times Jordan looked overmatched by kids throwing 95 mph and treating an at-bat against him as Game 7 of the World Series.
Tebow had some moments like that in the Arizona Fall League when he showed occasional raw power in batting practice but an overall game that lacked -- no surprise here -- polish. He hit .173 and struck out 33 times in 110 at-bats. But Tebow also added some juice to the Fall League and made his teammates feel like they were part of a big deal.
This DH assignment is the next logical step as Tebow attempts to figure out what kind of baseball career he can have. Once more, hats off to him for giving it a try.
Tebow's presence has brought out all those University of Florida fans who remember him for winning two national championships (2006 and '08) and a Heisman Trophy ('07).
They've bought Mets merchandise with Tebow's name on it and cheered his appearances on the field. Now they've got a real game -- sort of -- to watch their guy.
Tebow has created a stir at a time when the Atlanta Braves have signed former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sanders Commings to a Minor League deal.
Commings, predictably, has gotten slightly less attention than Tebow. Instead, he has had the luxury of a normal Spring Training. At some point, both Tebow and the Mets will have to make a decision on his baseball future. Until that happens, let's all enjoy the ride.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.