Tim Tebow Wants To Play Baseball

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A decade after he last stepped onto a baseball field for a competitive game, Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow is hoping to become a professional baseball player.

After training with former big league catcher Chad Moeller, Tebow is preparing to hold a workout for major league teams later this month. The timing of the workout seems to indicate that Tebow, who will turn 29 this month, would be looking to play in instructional league or the Arizona Fall League if a team was willing to sign him to a contract—the minor league baseball regular season ends in the first week of September.

“This may sound like a publicity stunt, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen Tim’s workouts, and people inside and outside the industry—scouts, executives, players and fans—will be impressed by his talent,” said Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of CAA Baseball. “As an agent, I have a genuine respect for how hard it is to succeed at the game of baseball and a true admiration for those who possess the talent to play it at the major league level. Tim’s tool set is real. His physicality is unique in professional baseball. His work ethic is unprecedented, and his passion for the game is infectious. He knows the challenges that lie ahead of him given his age and experience, but he is determined to achieve his goal of playing in the major leagues.”

Tebow is attempting to interest teams as a lefthanded-hitting corner outfielder. He is 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and 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). A scout who saw him play in high school said he believed Tebow could have been a significant prospect if he had focused on baseball at an early age. But his football career kept him from ever focusing significantly on baseball. Tebow did not play baseball as a high school senior because he graduated early from high school—he was home-schooled but played ball at Nease High in Ponte Vedra—to enroll at Florida in time to participate in spring football drills.

“He could have been a good player but everyone was well aware of him being a football player,” said a long-time National League scout who saw Tebow play in high school. “He was a super competitive kid with right field tools. He just didn’t play enough. Against better pitching he wasn’t quite ready for it. All these years later, I would be suspicious. What is someone going to see in a workout? He may hit some balls out of the park and run a good 60-yard dash. But you have to see him hit against very good Double-A or Triple-A pitching.”

“He was a kid who had talent that was easy to see. If he had committed to baseball he would have a chance to be a good baseball player,” the NL scout continued. “He was a little stiff. We don’t see kids in high school very often who are that strong and that physical … I couldn’t imagine there would be a happy ending to Tim Tebow’s baseball career. But someone will probably sign the guy and give him a chance. If he was a pitcher, it’s different. A good arm is a good arm. But he’s lost 10 years in the batter’s box.”

After working out with Tebow, Moeller, a 10-year major league veteran catcher, believes Tebow has a chance.

“I am beyond impressed with Tim’s athleticism and swing, and it goes without saying that he has shown a high level of discipline and strong work ethic,” Moeller said. “I see bat speed and power and real baseball talent. I truly believe Tim has the skill set and potential to achieve his goal of playing in the major leagues, and based on what I have seen over the past two months, it could happen relatively quickly.”

Tebow is not the first prominent athlete to try to make it in baseball. Michael Jordan was the most famous athlete in the world when he retired from the NBA to attempt to play baseball as a 31-year-old. Jordan hit .202/.289/.266 with Double-A Birmingham in 1994 while the Barons set attendance records both at home and on the road. Jordan ended up giving up on his baseball dreams the next season because the Major League Baseball’s strike would have forced him to cross the picket line to play.

More recently, long-time NBA forward Tracy McGrady pitched for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters in 2014 to fulfill his long-time dream of playing pro baseball. McGrady was overmatched by Atlantic League hitters, going 0-2, 6.75 in seven innings with four hits and 10 walks allowed and no strikeouts.

In Jordan’s case, despite plenty of skepticism, there were a few evaluators at the time who believed that if he had stuck with baseball he could have made it to the majors, at least in a limited role. But Tebow’s age would work strongly against his chances of making it to the majors. While he was toolsy player in high school, that was a decade ago.

“As gifted an athlete as the great Michael Jordan was, he had trouble with the speed of the game, especially hitting live,” said a veteran American League area scout. “For Tebow, I can imagine he’s shown some BP potential, however Ted Williams was right–hitting is the hardest thing to do in all of sports, and you add time off to that equation and it’s nearly impossible. His only shot would be as a pitcher.”

The best example of a recent hitter taking a long time off before returning to make it to the majors is Astros outfielder/catcher Evan Gattis. Gattis has similar size (6-foot-4, 270 pounds) and was away from the game for four years before he landed at Division II Texas-Permian Basin in 2010. He was drafted that spring and three years later was playing in the big leagues for the Braves. Like Tebow, Gattis was an athletic big man with power, but unlike Tebow, Gattis’ years away from the game were from age 18 to 22. Outfielder Josh Hamilton missed three full seasons as he battled drug addiction before jumping to the big leagues with no experience above Class A as a Rule 5 pick of the Reds in 2007. But in Hamilton’s case, he had minor league experience before his long layoff and he was the No. 1 pick in the 2000 draft.

Those are best-case scenarios. Tebow is trying to enter the game at an age where even the best players are generally starting to decline.

— Hudson Belinsky contributed reporting

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