Posted on September 19, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Tim Tebow’s professional baseball career is officially underway. The former Heisman Trophy winner reported to instructional league with the New York Mets on Monday for his first official workout as a pro baseball player. Tebow was in Port St. Lucie, Florida going through drills with the rest of the prospects the Mets have invited to instructional league, including several who are still teenagers. He was wearing the number 15, the same number he wore while playing quarterback at the University of Florida and with the Denver Broncos and New York Jets in the NFL.
For Tebow, it is the first step in what could be a long journey to the big leagues. When the Mets announced the signing of Tebow, which included a $100,000 signing bonus, GM Sandy Alderson was unsure about Tebow’s timeframe for reaching the majors, saying that his performance during instructional league would dictate the next step in the process. Alderson said Tebow may play winter ball following instructional league, or he may continue working out with more personal instruction. It remains to be seen what level of the minors Tebow will start at for the 2017 season.
Naturally, Tebow drew quite the crowd, as hundreds piled into the Mets spring training complex to see the former quarterback start out his day with a base-running drill. He will continue to participate in drills throughout the week, although the Mets have excused him on Friday and Saturday so that Tebow can fulfill his duties as a college football analyst for the SEC Network. The Mets agreed to let Tebow continue with his previous commitments as an analyst when they signed him.
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With Tebow drawing such huge crowds and his signing drawing massive amounts of publicity, the Mets have already decided to sell team jerseys with Tebow’s name and the number 15 on the back. Ordinarily, Tebow would need to be on New York’s 40-man roster for the Mets to sell his jersey, but Tebow has signed a contract with Majestic Athletic to allow for merchandising before he reaches the big leagues.
The selling of jerseys for a player in instructional league makes it seem like the Mets signed Tebow for publicity and marketing reasons. However, Alderson addressed that suspicion when the team announced the signing of Tebow. “I have to tell you, the notion that we’re going to spend $100,000 on a bonus for a player so we can sell a couple hundred dollars’ worth of T-shirts in Kingsport [Tennessee, where the Mets have a minor league team], those economics don’t work,” Alderson explained. “This was not about making money.”
Of course, considering the crowds that have gathered to watch Tebow workout amongst a wide variety of no-name prospects, the Mets can expect to sell more than a handful of jerseys. Tebow jerseys are not currently being sold at Citi Field, but that has the potential to change with the Mets in the midst of their final home stand of the season.
What kind of impression Tebow makes at instructional league and how close he actually is to being a major league player remain to be seen. However, Tebow’s professional baseball career is officially underway, and that includes large crowds and jersey sales, two rather unfamiliar at most teams’ instructional league.