Why Tim Tebow deserves more credit | John Smallwood

Tebow Minor Leagues Baseball
Columbia outfielder Tim Tebow shares a smile with fans during a Class A minor-league baseball game against the Augusta Green Jackets on April 6, 2017, in Columbia, S.C.

Am I just be feeding into the hype if I say it might be more than just a publicity stunt for the New York Mets to have 29-year-old failed NFL quarterback Tim Tebow in their minor-league system?

Is it truly possibly that a guy who could not accurately throw a football farther than 15 yards might be able to mash baseballs more than 400 feet consistently enough to eventually get a major-league call-up?

Apparently, Tebow, whose NFL career ended with a failed attempt at making the Eagles in 2015, is still one of those guys you should never say never about.

On Sunday, Tebow hit a home run for the second time in his first three games with the Mets' Class A affiliate, the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies of the South Atlantic League. Before signing with the Mets last September, Tebow, the Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Florida, had not played organized baseball since his junior year of high school in 2005.

That was a decade removed for doing what some call the most difficult thing in sports: hitting a baseball with a bat.

Tebow is a great natural athlete, but I’m not sure if it is fully appreciated how difficult it would be for him to have retained or regained the hand-eye coordination to hit even minor-league pitching.

I was all on the publicity-stunt bandwagon when the Mets assigned Tebow to the instructional league in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Hey, anything to compete with the Yankees for the back-page headline.

Still, perhaps, I, like many of Tebow’s critics over the years, failed to give proper respect to the man’s determination to work his tail off to achieve what he sets his mind to trying.

Tebow failed to last as an NFL quarterback because he just did not have enough talent. It had nothing to do with a lack of commitment or lack of effort. If anything, his work ethic is why he actually played in 34 NFL games with 14 starts.

It seems that Tebow might have been the only one who did not take his  late-in-athlete-life switch to professional baseball as a joke. He’s the only guy who mattered in this equation.

Tebow is putting in all the same work as his 19- and 20-year-old teammates who also dream of someday  making “The Show.”

After the instructional league, Tebow played with the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League. He went through minor-league spring training and was assigned to Columbia.

In his first three games, Tebow is 3 for 13 (.230) with the two home runs and five RBI. He has struck out five times and left 13 runners on base.

Of course, Tebow's legitimately earning his way all the way up to the major leagues is still the longest of long shots.

However, I’ve changed my mind since September when I wrote, “If Tebow can somehow pull a successful MLB career out of a failed NFL one, more power to him.

“I just don’t need to hear about him until he plays in an MLB game or steps on the court for an NBA game or gets into the ring for a real fight against a professional boxer.”

I concede that Tebow's hitting two home runs in his first three games has caught my attention.

I might have to go “Tebowing” when the Fireflies visit the Phillies' South Atlantic League affiliate, the Lakewood (N.J.) Blueclaws, in May.