Tim Tebow brings more buzz, fans to the stands, but he’s looking for more hits – Indianapolis Star
Dana Hunsinger Benbow
Published 7:13 PM EDT Jul 15, 2019
By the time the gates opened to Victory Field at 5:30 p.m. Monday, a line of nearly 100 people had formed. One guy had a Sports Illustrated magazine in his hand, Tim Tebow in a Florida Gators football jersey on the cover. Another was wearing a No. 15 Denver Broncos Tebow jersey.
There was a buzz rippling through the line as these people stood in the hot summer heat at the third base gate entrance.
Nothing against the Indianapolis Indians, but there isn’t always this kind of buzz on game night.
An hour before, a cluster of media, at least a dozen, were down in the visiting team’s dugout along the first baseline, anxiously awaiting a Triple-A outfielder to emerge from the clubhouse.
Tebow, the former NFL quarterback-turned pro baseball player, was in Indy with his Syracuse Mets team to launch a four-game series against the Indians.
As reporters walked off the field, having gotten what they wanted from Tebow, and toward the Indians’ dugout, a player stood up, took his cap off and yelled: “Hey, you want to interview Darnell Sweeney?”
Sweeney is the second baseman for the Indians. The players in the dugout laughed. What are we on this night? Chopped liver? It kind of stunk taking a back seat on your own home field to a visiting team’s player.
But that doesn’t just happen in Indy when Tebow comes to town. It happens everywhere the 31-year-old plays, at all the minor league fields. The exact same thing.
First, he has to be Tim Tebow, the former NFL quarterback — and then he’s Tim Tebow, the Triple-A baseball player.
“It’s just part of it and, honestly, I don’t make too much of it,” he said before Monday night’s game. “I just come and get to talk to a few people a few minutes beforehand … and it’s really not too big of a deal for me.”
‘Tebow will undoubtedly boost our attendance’
After coming out of Florida, the first college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, Tebow was picked 25th in the 2010 NFL draft by Denver. Despite touting a record of 8-6 as a starting quarterback and leading the team to a playoff win, he never started again in the NFL.
“No other quarterback under 30 in NFL history has won a playoff game and then never started another NFL game,” the Denver Post reported in 2017.
After practice squads and off-season appearances in the NFL, Tebow announced in 2016, he would try for a career in professional baseball. People compared him to that other sports superstar Michael Jordan who tried his hand on the diamond after playing in the NBA.
Tebow signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets three years ago and has been with the organization ever since, recently moving up from its Binghamton Rumble Ponies Double-A affiliate.
As fans poured into Victory Field on Monday, IndyStar contacted Indians’ spokesman Cheyne Reiter to see if ticket sales were, indeed, up on this night.
After talking to the tickets department, Reiter said “we can’t quantify the uptick in attendance exactly, but (can say) that we’ve seen more momentum for our July weekday games than in years past,” he said. “The general consensus is that having Tebow here will undoubtedly boost our attendance. Everything we’ve pushed on social media regarding Tebow has exceeded the average likes, retweets, Facebook shares than what we have for standard posts.”
What Tebow said in the dugout
What do you think about the Colts this season?
“I think they’re really putting the right pieces together,” he said. “I wouldn’t necessarily know enough, like I feel I would about college (he’s a college football analyst), to really dive deep into it. But I think they’ve got a really good quarterback they are building around, kind of putting some pieces around him, and I think they’ll be competitive again.”
Are you ready for the Major Leagues?
“I’ve got to get a lot more hits before I think about that,” Tebow said. “You get that kind of question somewhat regularly and, for me, you can’t let yourself think about it. You have to be now in the present and focus on it, got to be able to continue to follow the process and improve before I really worry about that.”
Which is harder? The NFL or baseball?
“Who’s pitching and who’s the defense?” Tebow says, laughing. “Both are really tough sports. Baseball is a game of failure. It’s going to sound weird and that’s one reason I really want to do it. It’s hard. It’s not easy. I mean, you’re really, really good if you (have) success three out of 10 times. Something I always appreciated about this game was the challenge of it. There is constantly that battle and that pursuit and I really enjoy that.”
Just how hard is baseball? In 71 games this season, Tebow has a .161 batting average and has nearly three times as many strikeouts than hits (92 strikeouts to 36 hits).
On his recent engagement to Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, a South African who was crowned Miss Universe in 2017.
“Awesome. It’s awesome. It’s the best. It’s exciting. It’s a new season of life, but it’s a great season of life,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are super busy so we don’t get to see each other as much as you’d like, as much as I’d like (and) I think she would like, too, but it’s enjoyable. It’s really fun looking forward to something so special.”
Follow IndyStar sports reporter Dana Benbow on Twitter: @DanaBenbow. Reach her via e-mail: [email protected]
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