Tim Tebow Ready To Give Baseball His Best Shot
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—On Saturday, Tim Tebow was analyzing college football games on the SEC Network. Two days later, he was taking batting practice under the lights for the first time since high school.
And on Tuesday, he'll be at Camelback Ranch, playing left field and batting seventh for the Scottsdale Scorpions as the Arizona Fall League kicks off its 25th season.
Tebow, the 29-year-old who won the 2007 Heisman Trophy and two national championships at Florida before going on to a underwhelming NFL career, was also a baseball star in Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla. When Urban Meyer lured him onto the Gators' roster in 2003, any thoughts Tebow had of playing in the major leagues seemed to be quashed.
That was the way it stayed for more than a decade, until the itch to play returned and he found a believer in former major league catcher Chad Moeller, who runs a training academy in Arizona. That led to a tryout in front of scouts for 28 of the 30 big league teams at Southern California's Dedeaux Field, and eventually a minor league contract with the Mets.
After a few weeks in the Mets' instructional league—which included a home run in his first at-bat—he's here, ready to face what he knows is a far bigger challenge.
"There's a lot of great players here, and for me it's just about going out every day and working hard to improve and get better, remember it's a process and go through that process and have the right mental approach and enjoy every day," Tebow said. "That's all I can do, is come out here and play baseball."
When he comes to the plate for the first time on Tuesday he's likely to face righthander Austin Voth, the No. 9 prospect in the Nationals' system who finished the year at Triple-A Syracuse, just a step away from the major leagues.
That's a lot different than facing players getting their first tastes of life as a professional.
As has been his hallmark, however, Tebow on Monday was unbowed. He said he respects the challenge ahead of him, but displayed relentless positivity. He knows that making the major leagues is a longshot for anyone—let alone somebody who hasn't played in more than a decade—but he's going to chase his dream just the same, and he's not afraid to fail.
"For me, success doesn't come in where I finish or in what league, I think success comes in trying to give everything I have," Tebow said. "I think ultimately that's what you can control, and that's what I'm going to try to control: my effort, my focus every single day, being a great teammate and giving that great effort and let the results fall where they may."
Tebow's manager with Scottsdale is Tom Goodwin, the Mets' first base coach and a 14-year major leaguer. He'll also have help from Pedro Lopez, the Mets' manager at Double-A Binghamton.
Goodwin, too, understands the mountainous climb ahead of his new pupil. The attitude he brings—one he compared to Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson—will be extremely helpful as he deals with the ups and downs over the next six weeks.
"I think he knows about the challenge," Goodwin said. "We talked a little bit out there in left field (during batting practice) about some of the stuff he's been through. We're talking about a guy who's won a Heisman Trophy but also been cut four times, so I think he knows what the challenge is. I definitely think he's up for the challenge, and I'm looking forward to helping him out there."
Much like he did in the instructional league, Tebow will continue to take weekends off to broadcast football games for the SEC Network. He's aware, too, that some people view his return to baseball as a bit of a publicity stunt.
When that notion was brought up on Monday during his post-workout media session, it was about the only time during the 15-minute interview that anything other than a smile crossed his face.
"The good thing is I really don't have to say anything," he said. "I just get to come out here and pursue something I love and live out a dream and have a lot of fun doing it. We live in an awesome, great country where we get to pursue our dreams, and I'm thankful for it."
Since 2003, Tebow has been a Gator, a Bronco, a Jet, a Patriot and an Eagle. Starting Tuesday, however, he'll be a Scorpion traversing the desert with the hope it will one day lead to the Big Apple.
He knows he might fail, but he's much more concerned about the feeling he'd carry with him if he didn't give his former dream one last shot.
"Why is failure the worst thing? I know sometimes it gets talked about like it is, but in my opinion regret's the worst thing, followed by not trying, and a lot of times those go hand in hand," he said. "So for me, when I do something, I want to go all out for it and I can look back 20 years and if I wasn't good enough, I wasn't good enough."
NEWS AND NOTES
• Yankees prospect James Kaprielian, who made just four starts this season before being shut down with an elbow injury, will start for Scottsdale on Wednesday evening against Salt River. Kaprielian, the Yankees' first-round selection out of UCLA in 2015, went 2-1, 3.00 this year with high Class A Tampa and struck out 22 in 18 innings.
• Shortstop Gavin Lux, the Dodgers' first-round pick this year out of high school in Kensoha, Wisc., notched two of his team's three hits in an instructional league game against the Indians on Monday morning. He doubled to the left-center field gap and later scalded a single up the middle. Lux hit .296/.375/.399 between Rookie-level stops in the Arizona and Pioneer Leagues.
• Righthander Yadier Alvarez started the game for the Dodgers and showed a fastball that touched as high 99 mph in a two-inning stint. Alvarez, who went 4-3, 2.12 between the Arizona League and low Class A Great Lakes in his first pro season, spent most of the outing working on his changeup. The pitch, thrown in the mid-80s, showed flashes of improvement but was otherwise firm and below-average.
• Righthander Ryder Ryan, who got $100,000 as the Indians' 30th-round selection this past draft, sat at 95-96 mph with his fastball on Monday. He complemented the pitch with a mid-80s slider that showed the makings of an average or better pitch in the future. Ryan pitched just once this year at North Carolina and allowed a run on a hit and three walks without recording an out.
• Righthander Justin Garza, Cleveland's eighth-round pick out of Cal State Fullerton in 2015 who missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, touched as 94 mph in his inning on Monday. He sat 90-93 and located his pitches toward the bottom of the zone with two-seam life.
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• Three of the youngest players on the White Sox's instructional league roster—infielder Lenyn Sosa and outfielders Anderson Comas and Luis Mieses—reached base in success in their game with the Giants. Sosa and Comas hit consecutive infield singles, and Mieses reached on a fielder's choice. All three players are 16 years old, and none has played in a professional game. Mieses and Comas, this past year's Nos. 36 and 37 international prospects, respectively, signed for a combined $878,000 out of the Dominican Republic.