The public baseball workout Tim Tebow held last month earned him an audience with officials from several teams. They all asked him the same question and issued the same warning. Minor league baseball would be a grind, far removed from ornate football facilities at Florida or the NFL. He would ride buses for hours and dress in dusty, cramped clubhouses. Did he understand? Could he handle it?
Even his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports, detailed life in the bushes to Tebow when he first broached the transition to football from baseball. “Man, are you going to be good with that?” Van Wagenen asked him. Tebow laughed at the concerned tone, the idea that his existence had all been pampered.
“I think it’s funny,” Tebow said Thursday afternoon in telephone conversation. “I was like, first of all, what you need to understand is I have taken so many long jitney rides in the Philippines and Thailand and so many countries. I have taken so many bucket baths in third-world countries and had times when there’s no running water, there’s no electricity. I’ll be all right. I can handle that. I will be totally fine.” Tebow paused to laugh. “Yeah, I will be just fine. Sometime this summer, I was in the Philippines for three weeks. It’s not like we had the chance to take a shower every night. I’ll be okay.”
The reminder of his well-chronicled outreach further underscored the uniqueness of dropping Tim Tebow – Heisman winner, failed NFL quarterback, shout-show fodder, mission-trip taker – into the lower rungs of the New York Mets’ farm system. The experiment will begin Monday in Port St. Lucie, Fla.,, where Tebow will pull on a baseball uniform for the first time since high school, when he starred at Nease High, for the first day of instructional league.
In introducing Tebow, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson echoed Tebow’s assurance his entry into professional baseball is not a stunt. Some MLB officials had difficulty reconciling that with a unique arrangement: On Fridays and Saturdays, the Mets will allow Tebow to leave practice and travel to work on “SEC Nation,” his show on ESPN’s SEC Network.
Tebow, whom the Mets signed for $100,000, cast his decision to continue broadcasting as an unwillingness to break a commitment. He said he believes teammates – many of whom will be a decade younger – will overlook the deal after meeting and playing with him.
“I think hopefully they get to know me and they get to see what I’m about, and they get to see the work ethic and the work I’m going to put in and the character I’m going to try to have with it,” Tebow said. “And the reason why I’m doing this, too – do I really enjoy ‘SEC Nation’? Absolutely. I really enjoy the team that we have there. It was so much fun starting that show and continuing to see it grow every year. The biggest reason is because I gave my word to it.”
On Sunday, Tebow watched the opening week of the NFL season with slight wistfulness. Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles cut Tebow during training camp, his last appearance as a football player.
“I’ll always love the game of football,” Tebow said. “I’ll always be passionate about it. When I watch a football game, I want to pick up a football and go throw. The whole time I was playing football, I always had that for baseball.”
Tebow received many offers to continue his football career, either as a quarterback in the Canadian Football League or in the NFL playing a different position, like tight end or H-back. Tebow turned them all down. Tebow, who was hospitalized with a concussion after taking a hellacious hit against Kentucky his senior year at Florida, said the long-term toll of the football played a role in the decision.
“I would say, was it a big reason? No,” Tebow said. “Was it a factor? Absolutely. Especially for all the opportunities that I had to play different positions – which I was honored to have – and I didn’t choose those primarily because of injuries or concussions. I chose that because I love playing the quarterback position. And obviously, you could see that when I played, I wasn’t necessarily the most-worried about injuries the way I played, always going head-first. I think there’s definitely a piece that, this is for real. Concussions are real. One day, do I want to have grandkids and be able to hang with them and go play ball and play catch with them? Absolutely. So is that something that’s in the back of your mind? Yeah.”
Tebow spoke with The Post as part of a media tour to promote the All State and American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team, which honors 24 college football players and one coach for work in the community.
“This is so important to me, because this is a chance to value who they are as people off the people and what they’re doing in their communities,” Tebow said. “We need to tell the next generation of young people, it’s not just how you do on the field. It’s actually more important who you are off the field. That gets lost in our society and our culture.”