PORT ST. LUCIE — All Tim Tebow wants to do is have fun. And try to hit the slider.
The former Univ. of Florida Heisman Trophy winner-turned-Mets outfield prospect held court again at the Mets’ spring training site Monday, five months after he reported to Instructional League here. Monday’s events were not near the circus that unfolded last September, however, when a news helicopter hovered over the complex and 60-plus media members watched Tebow’s every move.
But the southpaw former quarterback was no more discouraged Monday about the daunting challenge ahead of him — trying to make it to the majors after last playing organized baseball in high school.
“I’m not going to worry about what everyone’s writing or however I’m being marketed. For me, I just want to be able to continue the process, enjoy the process, have fun out there,” Tebow, 29, said in a press conference room before he began a workout that included four rounds of batting practice. “I think one goal would be — better every day. The other goal is to take the progress and the things that I’ve learned the last three months and apply those every single day. Continue to build on those things.”
Tebow may be a marketing gimmick in many people’s eyes — his No. 15 T-shirts were being sold outside the First Data Field complex and several fans wore his jersey while watching him stretch and take hacks — but Tebow said he doesn’t need to gauge his chances of whether he’ll make a big league roster one day, nor does he seem dazed by what obstacles might lay ahead on his baseball journey.
“I don’t have to give my chances,” said Tebow. Asked if he felt he was any closer to being on a big league roster, Tebow said, “Gosh, I hope so. That’s why we put in the work. But that’s not just the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to be able to enjoy it every day. I can honestly sit here before every one of you and say I’ve had so much fun, training, pursuing it.”
When Tebow finished the Arizona Fall League last year — where he batted .194 in 19 games, including 20 whiffs — part of his off-season training included working out with former Met playoff stud Daniel Murphy, who’s now with the division rival Nationals.
“We happen to be neighbors (in Jacksonville, Fla.), so that helps,” Tebow said of Murphy. “We had the Mets’ tie. We became friends, trained a lot. He’s kind of as much of an addict for sports as I am. Even Thanksgiving morning, we were out there hitting before he had to go back and get to his wife and family. That’s how addicted he is.”
Tebow flashed some Murphy-like power Monday after stretching out and doing various drills, socking nine home runs through those four rounds of batting practice.
The ex-Jets backup quarterback had a few lighthearted moments Monday, even joking about his disastrous one-season tenure with Gang Green in 2012, when he was on the depth chart behind Mark Sanchez and was barely used. When a reporter asked if the Jets had given Tebow a fair shake, he responded with, “Where did that come from? Been holding onto that one for three years?”
“That’s not for me to decide at all,” Tebow added. “The one thing with the Jets situation was I learned so much from it. I’m grateful for the highs there, which weren’t really many. Not necessarily the most fun situation. I think that everything happens for a reason.”
If the baseball thing fizzles, Tebow seems content with whatever outcome awaits, however long his baseball jaunt continues. The devout Christian underscored that while he’s “grateful” that sports has given him a platform to use his voice and advance his foundation work to help disadvantaged children around the world, at the end of the day his purpose is a greater one beyond the baseball diamond or football field.
“What pressure do you have if you’re 0-for-12 and you’re at the plate versus someone that is fighting for their life?” Tebow asked. “For me, there’s not a comparison. It’s not my biggest calling. I want my life to be so much more than that. I want to be someone that was known for bringing faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.”