Over the last decade, few athletes have been as polarizing and as highly scrutinized as the University of Florida football star Tim Tebow. While his behavior on and off the field is certainly commendable, his play has garnered frustration from his supporters and detractors alike. Tebow’s remarkable career as quarterback for the University of Florida is highlighted by his sophomore campaign, where he scored a combined 51 touchdowns in the air and on the ground en route to a Heisman trophy, and his junior season, where he led the Gators to a BCS National Championship.
Tebow’s outstanding career in the NCAA is often overshadowed, however, by his notably lackluster career in the NFL. After being drafted with the 25th overall pick in 2010 by the Denver Broncos, Tebow achieved but one memorable moment in the NFL: a playoff win over the Steelers in his second season. He then bounced from team to team as a backup quarterback, and he refused to consider playing tight end or fullback, two positions in which he likely could have found moderate success.
Now, in a decision that has shocked pundits from both the NFL and MLB, Tebow has announced a foray into baseball. Many believe that it is exceedingly wishful of Tebow to expect ever escaping the minor leagues, but he genuinely believes that he can make a run at baseball success.
The fact of the matter is; the odds are stacked heavily against him. Unlike in football and basketball, being drafted as a baseball player is far from a guarantee of big league playing time. In fact, only 66% of first round draft picks even reach the MLB, let alone find any success at that level. Tebow, who was a free agent, is not close to as highly touted as this first round picks either, as it has been nearly a decade since he last played baseball, an eternity for a sport that requires such a specialized skill set. He would not be the first NFL player to find success in the MLB, as Deion Sanders was a prolific base stealer for the Atlanta Braves in the 90s, and Bo Jackson hit 32 HRs with the Royals in 1989. Sanders and Jackson, however, both played college baseball and were drafted because of their success at this higher level.
The fact of the matter is; the odds are stacked heavily against him. Unlike in football and basketball, being drafted as a baseball player is far from a guarantee of big league playing time. In fact, only 66% of first round draft picks even reach the MLB, let alone find any success at that level.
Tebow’s high school baseball coach, Greg Mullins, said in a 2013 interview of Tebow, “He wasn’t just a great football player, he was a great baseball player, too. I believe that he could have played in the big leagues.” Mullins, a retired MLB pitcher, has some credibility as well, as he knows what it takes to play at that level, and he did see Tebow hit .494 in his junior season. Tebow has demonstrated legitimate, high-ceiling, left-handed power to scouts as well, but he has not faced live pitching since high school, therefore projecting his ability to adjust to high-level pitching is difficult.
In spite of these concerns, the New York Mets have signed Tebow to a minor-league contract, and he will begin work in the instructional league this month. While some around baseball are decrying Tebow’s presence as a distraction to the younger Mets hopefuls, others, including those in the Mets front office, believe that Tebow’s experience as a professional athlete and his leadership skills will be beneficial for the would-be pros.
Only time will tell if Tebow can defy the odds and reach the big leagues, but one can be certain that his baseball journey, like every other venture of Tebow’s career, will be heavily monitored by the media.