COLUMBIA, S.C. – Not since Michael Jordan attempted professional baseball has a minor league player ever had such a major-league aura.
Tim Tebow, a two-time national champion and 2007 Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Florida, is preparing to make his debut with the Class A Columbia Fireflies Thursday.
After signing a minor league contract with the New York Mets last September, the former NFL quarterback went through instructional league play last fall. He was assigned to the club’s Class A affiliate in the South Atlantic League for the 2017 season.
Tebow, who before signing with the Mets last played competitive baseball in high school, is taking the opportunity very seriously.
“For me, this is not like a vacation,” Tebow said. “This is not something I want to do for publicity. This is a business trip. This is work.”
And that work begins Thursday when the Fireflies host the Augusta GreenJackets in a four-game series to open the season.
If fans are concerned they won’t see Tebow in action, don’t be, said Columbia manager Jose Leger.
“He’s going to be playing,” said Leger, giving the thousands of Tebow fans that showed up at the team’s Fan Day last weekend reason to be optimistic.
Tebow is wearing a very popular Fireflies jersey. Get 'em while you can. pic.twitter.com/QN3saQRPyW— Reggie Anderson (@ReggieWLTX) April 4, 2017
“You gotta love Tebow,” said Jason Scott Wagner. “Tebow is the man, and I’m looking forward to how he can do with baseball.”
Despite having the support of his legion of fans, Tebow admitted he can still be a bit nervous. And as for football, there’s no question the game is still close to his heart.
“I think when you care about something enough, there are always nerves because it matters how you do,” Tebow said. “I still love the game of football, but I’m pursuing something else that I love, and you can love more than one thing.”
Tebow was a first-round draft choice by the Denver Broncos in 2010. He led the Broncos to their first NFL playoff victory in six seasons when they defeated Pittsburgh in 2011. Tebow also made NFL stops wth the New York Jets, New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Eagles.