In case you too are kinda sick of all the turmoil and chaos and criminal probes and anger, this one’s for you. But can you handle heartwarming news?
Tim Tebow was moved up in the Mets farm system this week to the Eastern League’s Double-A Rumble Ponies in Binghamton, N.Y. He’d never even been to Binghamton before Monday. Now, they’ll never want to see him leave, the famously faithful man who at 30 is trying to make it to the MLB bigs after the NFL cut the Heisman Trophy winner.
Stepping to the plate on a frigid upstate night in his first at-bat in his first Double-A game Thursday, Tebow took the first pitch and sent it out of sight down the right-field line clean over the Warner’s Gas sign. A three-run homer and a 5-0 lead against the Portland Sea Dogs, a Red Sox affiliate.
You know what? In his first at-bat last April for the lowly Class A Columbia Fireflies, Tebow launched a two-run rocket to left. It wasn’t always all that great in his first learning season in the Mets minor league system. But later he was promoted to the Mets’ St. Lucie team.
As we wrote here last July, a funny thing happened:
Attendance soared, even for away games way up in New Jersey. They couldn’t make No. 15 Tebow shirts fast enough. People drove long distances just to be around him. It certainly wasn’t always his hitting or fielding.
J.J. Cooper over at Baseball America cleverly studied the 14-team league’s average attendance this year and found crowds much larger for Tebow games, sometimes twice the size of non-Tebow games. He estimates the son of missionaries who started his children’s charity before college graduation brought the league a minimum extra $1.6 million this year.
The attraction was Tebow, the way he wears fame humbly, talks respectfully to everyone, especially youngsters clamoring, not always politely, for his autograph or just to bask briefly in his gaze. The look in the youngsters’ eyes. And their parents’. And on the faces of the special-needs kids he brings to games or organizes proms for.
It’s an incongruous sight, a hulking Tebow sleeping on the bus floor with baseball wannabes 10 years his junior. But he’s encouraging them and taking extra batting practice and all the coaching he can get.
At a welcome news conference this week he said:
Maybe my teammates can learn from. You can never let your identity be defined by cheers or boos. Because, honestly, it’s great to have support, but it can change really fast And the same people cheering you an inning later can boo. And you need to understand your identity has to be found in different places…As an athlete you have to have tunnel focus and a vision and a goal and that can’t be swayed by 4-for-4 or 0 for your last 12.
Tebow’s latest homer came at a good time. His Double-A debut drew Jeff Wilpon, Met’s chief operating officer, to the game.
“We look forward to having him perform and move up the system, which he’s doing,” Wilpon said. “That’s why he’s here — moving up the chain. He did well last year in A ball. Now, he’s got to prove himself here and probably have to go to Triple-A at some point.”
By the way, here’s video of Tebow’s Binghamton home run. Listen to the crowd.