- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2016

The New York Mets have signed former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow to a minor league deal.

According to the Mets’ team website, Tebow will participate in the club’s instructional league in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The instructional league runs from September to October. Tebow is expected to start in the league on Sept. 18.

Tebow, who drew scouts representing 28 Major League Baseball teams to his Los Angeles workout last week to showcase his abilities, has not played organized baseball since 2005, his junior year at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Verde, Fla. Tebow, much like his versatility as a quarterback, was versatile as a baseball player, capable of playing multiple positions.

“Outfield, pitcher, first base,” Tebow listed out his high school positions. “Whatever left handers could play.”

Tebow called the decision between choosing football over baseball the second-hardest decision of his life. Choosing the Florida over the University of Alabama was Tebow’s most difficult decision.

“Since I was 4 or 5 years old, there’s been two things that I’ve loved the most in sports,” Tebow said.”One was playing quarterback — having 10 other guys look at you and depend on you to win a game. And then hit a baseball. Specifically those two things. And there wasn’t a season that went by where [baseball] wasn’t something that I thought about.”

In the introductory press conference, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson admitted that he was a bit skeptical about Tebow’s ability to become a professional baseball player. But after a thorough amount of scouting and thought, Alderson believes that signing Tebow can only be a positive for the organization.

“I think that any player evaluation starts with tools,” Alderson said of Tebow. “From that standpoint, without grading everything out, Tim has been a great athlete. He demonstrated more than rudimentary baseball skills. With his commitment to success, we think this is an opportunity that is worthwhile. In terms of arm strength, in terms of power, in terms of foot speed, we think he can be a baseball player.”

That raw talent is what the Mets are hoping they can tap into. Alderson said an athlete such as Tebow shouldn’t immediately written off simply because of the way he was acquired, citing pitcher Seth Lugo, who the Mets drafted in the 34th round in 2011, and T.J. Rivera, an undrafted player, as examples of players that can succeed despite their low expectations.

According to ESPN, both the Atlanta Braves and the Colorado Rockies expressed interest in signing Tebow. Tebow said he chose the Mets because he believes the coaching staff and player development offered him the greatest opportunity to succeed.

Tebow, who won the 2007 Heisman Trophy at the University of Florida, was drafted with the 25th pick in the 2010 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. In his NFL career, which included regular season appearances with the Broncos and the New York Jets, Tebow appeared in 34 games, throwing for 2,422 total yards and 17 touchdowns. Tebow also added another 989 yards and 12 more touchdowns on the ground. In Tebow’s last appearance in the NFL, in the 2015 season with the Philadelphia Eagles, Tebow was cut after the final preseason game.

Tebow fully believes that the tools he gained from playing collegiate and professional football can only be beneficial for him on the baseball diamond.

“100 percent,” Tebow said. “I think its the mindset, competing, learning to battle, the highs and lows. Everything on the football field has helped me for this opportunity right now.”

Currently, Tebow works as a SEC football analyst for ESPN. Stephanie Druley, ESPN senior vice president, event and studio producer stated that Tebow’s new schedule will still allow him to fulfill that role.

“Tim is committed to his role at SEC Network and ESPN this fall,” Druley said in a released statement. “We have always been supportive of Tim’s athletic pursuits. His new schedule will allow him to continue as a college football analyst on SEC Nation this fall.”

Alderson also noted that the Mets would be willing to work with Tebow and his other commitments.

As for Tebow’s development as a professional baseball player, the Mets will stress patience. While Tebow possesses all of the qualities of a professional baseball player, there won’t be any sort of rush towards getting him in a Mets uniform.

“We haven’t put a timeline on this,” Alderson said. “His development and progress will determine the length of time. That will be determined over the next few weeks, months and possibly years.”

But with a proven track record of elite commitment, Alderson still couldn’t hold back his final prediction for Tebow.

“We fully expect Tim to commit himself to success at the major league level,” he said.

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