An MMO Fan Shot by Marc Epstein
According to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports and as reported by MMO, New York Mets minor leaguer Tim Tebow could start 2018 with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies if he has a decent MLB spring training. Tebow recently injured his ankle, but isn’t expected to miss a substantial amount of time.
The Mets signed the then 29-year-old former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy Award winner to a minor league contract in 2016. At the time, Tebow was quoted as saying, “I just get to go pursue my passion, do what I love. I get to pursue this awesome game of baseball. I’ll give everything I have to it.”
Playing for the challenge and the love of the game — what a concept in today’s jaded world!
No one should underestimate the degree to which this is a testament to Tebow, the athlete. When you consider the fact that he had not played baseball for 13 years since his junior year in high school back in 2005, the amazing athletic nature of the story is apparent.
For those who look at his pedestrian, even poor, Single-A stats and dismiss the effort as a publicity stunt, keep in mind that most people could not even foul off a pitch thrown by a professional baseball pitcher and most minor league players do not make it to the major leagues anyway.
Although no one is bigger than the game, and certainly not a marginal minor leaguer, this is also one of those stories that transcends the sport because of Tebow, the man, a college football sensation who broke through as a cultural icon and a sometimes polarizing figure, but a man who was always genuine in his beliefs.
He is extremely popular with fans for that reason and creates a buzz of excitement wherever he plays. The “Tebow Show” is a story of persistence, passion, and purity. It’s a story that’s good for the game.
It’s also a rerun. Although a rarity, baseball has had its share of two-sport athletes throughout its history. Tebow’s arrival in upstate New York will be the biggest national sports story in the city of Binghamton since 1994, when a guy named Michael Jordan played for the Birmingham Barons, a Double-A minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
The basketball Hall of Famer, legend, and star of the movie Space Jam, batted .202 with the Barons that season. He hit three homers to go along with 51 RBI, 30 stolen bases, 114 strikeouts, 51 base on balls, and committed 11 errors. It turned out to be his only baseball season before returning to his professional basketball career.
Tebow’s baseball career has been most reminiscent of Jordan’s effort, albeit at a lower minor league level. In 145 minor league games in Single A, Tebow has has batted .222 and accumulated eight long balls, 52 RBI, 126 strikeouts, 61 base on balls and 10 errors.
With that level of production, Tebow is unlikely to ever reach anywhere near the performance of the two-sport athletes who graced the game before him. Probably the most successful was Kenny Lofton, a six-time All-Star (1994–1999) and a four-time Gold Glove Award winner (1993–1996) who ranked 15th among all-time stolen base leaders with 622.
He ended his career with a .299 BA, a ridiculous .372 on-base percentage and a 68 WAR. He attended the University of Arizona on a basketball scholarship. The Wildcats made it to the Final Four in 1988. He did not join the school’s baseball team until his junior year.
Arguably the best two-sport pro athlete of all time was Bo Jackson. He is one of the few athletes to be named an All-Star in two professional sports leagues, and the only one to do so in both baseball and football, and is widely considered one of the greatest athletes of all time.
While at Auburn University, Jackson won the 1985 Heisman Trophy and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996. Jackson was originally drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1986 NFL Draft, but refused to play for the franchise.
Jackson instead entered the following year’s draft, selected in the seventh round by the Los Angeles Raiders. After a 1991 hip injury on the field ended his football career, Jackson focused on baseball. He made the Royals’ roster in 1987 and hit 22 home runs, with 53 RBI and 10 stolen bases as a left fielder. Jackson began to show his true potential in 1989, when he was voted to start for the American League All-Star team, and was named the game’s MVP.
In the top of the first inning, he caught Pedro Guerrero‘s two-out line drive to left-center field to save two runs. Then he led off the bottom of the first—his first All-Star plate appearance—with a monstrous 448-foot (137 m) home run off Rick Reuschel. In the second inning, he beat out the throw on a potential double play to drive in the eventual winning run.
He then stole second base, making him the second player in All-Star Game history to hit a home run and steal a base in the same game (the first was Willie Mays). He ended his baseball career with a 162 Game Average of 33 HR, 97 RBI, 19 SBs, and a .784 OPS.
Unlike Lofton and Jackson, but similar to Jordan, Tebow is getting a very late start on his MLB career. It’s a long shot, but he has a chance to get to the major leagues.
If he does, it will be an unprecedented accomplishment given his history. But like the few two-sports stars who came before him, this is a rare feel-good story, a rerun worth watching, and a player all Mets fans can root for.
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This Fan Shot was written and contributed by MMO community member and die-hard Mets fan Marc Epstein. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Send your article to GetMetsmerized@aol.com or use this Contact Form. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.