Why the Mets signed Tim Tebow: 'Our opportunity to associate with excellence'

Tim Tebow and the New York Mets' marriage was finalized Thursday, when the major league franchise and the telegenic former quarterback announced agreement on a minor league contract, a union forged on a central, mutual concept.

Neither side is afraid to fail.

Tebow's 12-year absence from the game and lack of obvious major league talent drew detractors since he announced an open tryout for major league clubs, and will surely amplify as he makes his way through the Mets' minor league system, a process that begins when he reports to instructional league in Port St. Lucie, Fla. on Sept. 18.

Now, it is the Mets sharing the burden of handling naysayers, but in a conference call on Thursday, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson and Tebow both showed a willingness to ignore the haters and embrace the opportunity.

Even if Tebow, 29, has little chance of actually donning a Mets uniform at Citi Field.

"This is our opportunity to associate with excellence. Whether that translates into a major league uniform, it’s about the process. We can’t control the outcome. All we can do is enhance the possibilities of success."

The process begins 10 days from now, when Tebow arrives at the Mets' Florida training facility and learns how to play professional baseball, in a setting surrounded by 18- and 19-year-old - like Tebow, the rawest of prospects.

But even that informal setting - which will run until Oct. 8 - won't be devoid of controversy. Tebow will fulfill his commitment to ESPN's SEC Network during that period, drawing him away from the facility one to two days a week.

"That’s something I’ve committed to do," Tebow said. "For me, if I’ve committed to do something, it’s my word. I just really appreciate Mr. Alderson giving my word to it and I have to fulfill it. I love doing (television work) and it’s something I’ll continue to do in the fall.

"But in the week, I’ll be working as hard as I can. As Mr. Alderson said, you have to give it a break."

Alderson denied the Mets' interest was merely for publicity, although he noted on several occasions the longshot nature of Tebow's bid, and that it was far more likely the club will benefit intangibly, with their young players learning about elite competition from a former Heisman Trophy winner.

Tebow's open tryout last month drew mixed reviews from scouts, with some taken aback by the 6-3,260-pounder's raw power and others quick to pan his below-average throwing arm and merely average speed - key tools for someone whose likely position will be corner outfield.

"Part of it was because of this layoff," Alderson said of the uneven performance. "Another part was there hasn’t been this exposure to the game in a long period of time. There’s going to be a little bit of rust, a need for instruction and development. But look – I understand this is not a typical situation.

"It’s not a typical one-off player evaluation in the sense that we evaluate the tools and make a judgment. We understand he hasn’t been around the game for a while. We understand he’s 29 years old. We understand he’s going to be a tremendous role model for our players in the system."

Tebow said giving up baseball was the "second-hardest decision" he ever had to make, the first, presumably, being his choice to pick Florida over Alabama for college football.

He said he began exploring a return to the sport - even working out - in 2015, when then-Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly called. Tebow signed with the Eagles - his third shot at the NFL - but was cut just before the season started, Kelly saying that Tebow "wasn't good enough to be our third-stringer."

Now, his attention will be dvided between his TV and baseball careers. Alderson said after instructional league, Tebow may play in the Arizona Fall League if he has shown the aptitude to play in the league typically reserved for top prospects. A stint in winter ball is possible, though Alderson cautioned that more "individualized instruction" may still be necessary.

After that, Tebow's first full pro season, starting back at Port St. Lucie in spring training. Alderson said the club did not promise a major league camp invitation to Tebow.

Should that happen, the attention will surely ramp up, the detractors' voices perhaps growing louder.

Tebow has learned to shut them out, and now he has a franchise alongside him to do the same.

"Thankfully, I don’t really have to say anything to them," says Tebow. "I just get to go pursue my passion. That’s what’s great about America. I can pursue this awesome game of baseball, give everything I have to it and continue to work."

 

KREM


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