LOS ANGELES—Tim Tebow—2007 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback—put his baseball skills on display Tuesday in front of more than three dozen scouts and Dodgers scouting director Billy Gasparino.
Spoiler alert: The former Florida Gators star is better at baseball than most in attendance at Dedeaux Field on the campus of Southern California expected, but the consensus was that expectations were low.
Tebow, more than a decade after he last played baseball as a junior at Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., has been training with former big league catcher Chad Moeller with an eye on signing a pro contract and playing in the instructional league or in the Arizona Fall League, usually reserved for upper-tier prospects.
The 29-year-old former Broncos and Jets QB—he hasn’t played in the NFL since 2012, although he signed with the Eagles in 2015 and was released before the final preseason game—began his pro tryout with a 60-yard dash.
Tebow has demonstrated that he’s at least an average to tick above-average runner (he ran a 4.72 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 2010), so that seemed to be the surest bet as far as baseball tools go and a natural starting point for the tryout.
Tebow began with a jolt from his starting point in right-center field and ran to his destination in left-center—60 yards away—in 6.76 seconds. On the scouting scale, that would rank as above-average, and that doesn’t take into account Tebow’s size. He measured at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, with 7.3 percent body fat.
“Is that him? . . . He’s huge,” an American League scout said.
Tebow, who never displayed a strong throwing arm as a quarterback, then took his place in right field and made throws to second base, third and home.
“He has a 45 (on the 20-80 scout scale) arm,” an American League scout said. “No true carry.”
After a few reps throwing to each base, Tebow moved to center field and began to shag fly balls, showing his defensive skills.
“He’s a fringe but serviceable outfielder,” a National League scout said. “He’ll only play left field.”
After a uniform change, Tebow and some coaches went to a room secured from the main stadium to warm up for batting practice. Then Tebow took the field, and in a leaned-back, crouched stance, set up in the batter’s box. He launched one ball just left and some 15 feet above the scoreboard in left-center field. Then another. Then one to right center. That impressed the scouts in attendance.
“The raw power is irreplaceable,” a National League scout said.
In the final stage of his showcase, Tebow faced live pitching from former major league righthanders Chad Smith and David Aardsma. Against Smith, Tebow took two balls and fouled two off, then hit a grounder to where a second baseman would be stationed. A grounder to short followed, followed by another. Tebow did manage a line drive to shallow center that would have been a single. A five-pitch walk followed.
The next challenge came in the form of nine-year MLB reliever Aarsdma. It started with another groundout and a single up the middle. Then, the 34-year-old former closer used his changeup. There was a swing and miss on a change inches off the plate, then a pitch of out the zone, then two more swings and misses on identical pitches to the first.
“David was out here trying to get a job,” said Moeller, who has worked with Tebow since May. “He was looking to find a job for next year, and that’s what makes it more real.”
Tebow wrapped up his time against live pitching with his fair share of hits, with the lone strikeout. This included a ball hit to left-center that popped off the top of the wall, and fell back into play.
“He was short to the ball, swing was flat,” said the NL scout who was impressed with Tebow’s raw power. “He swung on top of a few breaking balls but you expect that, he hasn’t seen a real pitcher.”
In attendance, sitting in the stands, was former major league righthander Dan Haren. The three-time All-Star declined the opportunity to throw to Tebow, but did share his assessment of how the potential baseball prospect faired.
“He ran really well, he’s got some pop,” Haren said. “People kind of know what to expect. It’s a matter of him going out and seeing if he can hit live pitching really.”
So why would Tebow do this? He’s had success in football in college and in the pros, although less so. He makes millions of dollars as a football analyst at ESPN. He’s 29 years old, and hasn’t played competitive baseball in more than a decade.
“I love it,” Tebow said. “Since I was four or five years old, there have been two things I love the most in sports. One was playing quarterback, having 10 other guys look at you, and depending on you to win a game. Then, hit a baseball. Specifically those two things.”
Known for his work ethic, Tebow has a new challenge and goal ahead.
“The goal would be to have a career in the big leagues,” he said. “The pursuit of it is to give everything you have, and give the best you can, give everything. I want to be someone to pursue what I believe in, what I have a passion about. A lot of people say, ‘What if you don’t make it?’ Guess what? I don’t have to live with regret. I did everything I could.”
Tebow’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of CAA Baseball, told reporters that a few teams spoke with his client after the showcase. Which one will be the best fit?
“I’m looking for an opportunity, and hopefully the right opportunity,” Tebow said.
He’s likely to get the chance, if only as a huge drawing card for some team.