Tim Tebow wasted no time in making an impact in his debut Wednesday in the New York Mets’ instructional league, hitting a home run at his first at-bat. And while he failed to get a hit on his next five at-bats, it was a fun experience for the 29-year-old former Denver Broncos and New York Jets quarterback as he finally made his professional baseball debut in front of about 250 fans at Port St. Lucie, Fl.
Facing left-handed pitcher John Kilichowski, who plays in the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system, Tebow was electric as he got his first dose of minor league pitching, sending Kilichowski’s 90-mph fastball over left field. Despite left fielder Dylan Carlson’s best efforts to catch the ball, it was all for naught as the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner made his way back to home plate to the approving cheers of the fans.
“It was fun,” Tebow said after the game, as quoted by the Associated Press. “I just wanted to have the approach that I was going to be aggressive. That’s something we’ve been talking about every day and practicing. It was probably a little high, but I got good barrel on it and it went out.”
The rest of Tebow’s game wasn’t too impressive, though he did come close to registering a second hit when he almost beat the throw from third base during his fifth at-bat. Still, he got some praise from his ex-Denver Broncos teammate Chris Harris, Jr., and also from New York Mets manager Terry Collins, who said that Tebow is an “overachiever” despite his obvious drawbacks of being on the old side for a pro baseball rookie and the fact that he hadn’t played the sport since his junior year in high school.
Kilichowski, who gave up the Tebow home run, also had some good words for him, despite quipping that he didn’t quite like how the homer quickly went viral on Twitter. The former Vanderbilt pitcher was an 11th round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals earlier this year, and had registered a solid 2.70 ERA for the Peoria Chiefs and State College Spikes, both Class A teams, in the 2016 season.
“He works hard, hit the ball hard, can’t get mad at him for that,” said Kilichowski, who grew up in Tampa and rooted for Tebow’s Florida Gators. In 2013, he had even complimented Tebow on a Twitter post that had criticized Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel for his poor play in the Gators’ shocking 33-23 Sugar Bowl loss to the Louisville Cardinals.
Tim Tebow’s decision to switch sports from football to baseball drew a lot of attention late in the summer, as he had conducted a workout with representatives from several Major League Baseball teams in attendance. And while he didn’t exactly look like big league material right off the bat, scouts were mostly impressed with how he had performed, with his power and speed sticking out as his strongest points. His size, at 6’3″ and 255 pounds, was also a key selling point for those who attended the workout.
“I thought he was OK. Better than I expected, to be honest,” said one of the MLB scouts, speaking to USA TODAY Sports immediately after the Tebow workout in late August. “For not having played (organized baseball) as long as he had, I thought he did OK.”
In the end, it was the Mets who took a chance on Tebow, who had one solid NFL season starting for the Broncos, but mostly struggled to get playing time in the NFL.
Given his flashes of brilliance in his instructional league debut, there may be hope for Tebow going forward as he makes the transition from one sport to another. Still, it may be too much for anyone to expect Tim Tebow in an MLB uniform anytime soon, as he’s still got a lot to prove in the lowest level of professional baseball.
[Featured Image by Rob Foldy/Getty Images]