COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Tim Tebow’s goal going forward is simple: Play ball!
Professional baseball, to be more specific.
The former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback said Friday that he spends three-to-five days each week training for baseball, getting himself ready for Year 2 of his pro career in the New York Mets organization.
“I didn’t take any time off,” he said Friday.
Tebow gets the work in around his off-the-field job as a college football analyst for the SEC Network, which takes him to schools throughout the Southeastern Conference from September until January.
The TV gig has not dulled Tebow’s desire to make a mark in baseball, where he spent this past season with two Class A clubs, Columbia in the South Atlantic League and Port St. Lucie in the Florida State League – both in the Mets system.
“Loved it from the first at bat to the last at bat, it was a great experience,” Tebow said.
Tebow, 30, was a good high school baseball player and on track to get looked at by Major League teams until he chose to play football at Florida. He was part of two national title teams with the Gators, became a first-round NFL draft pick and spent three seasons with Denver and the New York Jets. Looking for a challenge, Tebow relaunched his baseball career with a tryout camp in 2016 and was signed by the Mets soon after.
“I think the other thing I really enjoy is I love competing,” Tebow said. “So baseball is fun because you get to play every night.”
Tebow’s stats were not exactly eye-popping – he hit .226 in 126 combined games with the two teams and had eight home runs, 52 RBIs and 126 strikeouts – but he believes he made huge strides from his first game to his last and can build on that next season.
“I don’t even feel like remotely close to the same player (in April) from fundamentals, pitch recognition, the outfield, running bases,” Tebow said. “That was the first after dropping (baseball) for 12 years. I was learning on the fly.”
Tebow remembered how he would work on his skills with minor league coaches or Mets roving instructors that he had not practiced in earnest in a dozen years.
“It’s not just being able to do it, it’s being able to do it as fast as possible,” Tebow said. “And that’s how you make the jump to the next level.”
Tebow’s charisma and popularity made him a must-see attraction in minor league baseball. Fans filled parks, home and away, to catch a glimpse of Tebow in the outfield or at bat as a designated hitter.
There were even fans at the taping of Tebow’s “SEC Nation” show Friday wearing his No. 15 Columbia Fireflies jersey.
Tebow appreciated the applause. Now, he wants to earn it with better play.
He didn’t provide any detail his training regimen, only saying he would hit as often as possible. There will be no organized instructional league this offseason before spring training starts.
“You look at what you need to work on and it’s working on those things,” Tebow said. “Because it’s really hard to balance competing at a high level with learning and building on fundamentals.”
Tebow said he’s got a strong relationship with New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson and all the coaches he’s worked with so far. His next stop is spring training with the focus on improvement.
“Don’t focus on the end result. Don’t focus on where you are right now,” he said. “Focus on this is what I’ve got to do to get better.”