Tim Tebow 'feeling better, getting faster' despite .156 average

ByAdam Rubin ESPN logo
Tuesday, November 22, 2016

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tim Tebow's statistics are modest. But the former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner believes he is making progress with a week remaining in his Arizona Fall League stint.

Tebow enters Wednesday's game with the Scottsdale Scorpions hitting .156 (7-for-45) with one double, two RBIs, four walks and 13 strikeouts in 13 AFL games. His batting average ranks 70th of 73 qualifiers in the league.

"I feel like every day I get a little more comfortable in the field, at the plate, just going through the routine of baseball," said the 29-year-old Tebow, who launched a professional baseball bid in September with the New York Mets after not playing the sport since his junior year of high school. "I think my body is getting more comfortable with that -- the everyday routine of it, the little soreness of it, the recoveries. All of those little things."

Tebow has been slowed by a cranky right knee, which he originally injured on Oct. 31 on an awkward slide into second base. He returned to the lineup three days later as the designated hitter, then departed for his weekend gig as a college-football commentator. Tebow resumed playing left field on Monday.

"It's getting better every day," Tebow said. "I'm feeling better, getting faster."

One benefit of Tebow playing in the AFL is that Mets hitting coach Kevin Long lives in the Phoenix area and can provide regular tutelage. Tebow makes daily visits to Long in the mornings before reporting for AFL duty. The ex-quarterback confessed the extra workload has taken a toll on his hands.

"Let's put it this way: There's been a lot of bandages on my hands for the last couple of months," Tebow said. "That's for sure."

Tebow also has spent this week working at Scottsdale Stadium with Reggie Jackson, a Yankees instructor. They mostly have discussed hitting approach. Mets and Yankees prospects both play for the Scorpions.

"He's got a month named after him," Tebow said about Jackson, also known as Mr. October. "So it's pretty cool."

It has been an eventful AFL season for Tebow aside from his on-field play. The opening week, a man suffered a seizure in the stands after a game while seeking an autograph. Tebow stayed with the man -- a Georgia football fan -- until paramedics arrived. Tebow has stayed in touch with the man.

"He's doing well," Tebow said. "There might have been a little trash talk with the Florida-Georgia thing. But he's doing good."

There have been light moments, too. On Halloween, Scottsdale teammate Aaron Brown -- a Phillies prospect -- dressed as Tebow, including wearingDenver Broncosgarb.

"I thought it was really funny," Tebow said. "He's a trip. There were some good costumes. I liked his -- except when he came out and was throwing some different routes to [fellow Phillies prospect Mitch] Walding. There were too many incompletions out there."

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson acknowledged Tebow's assignment to the AFL is aggressive, given he just resumed playing the sport two months ago. But Alderson noted that the Mets wanted to have Tebow continue to develop by playing games after participating in the instructional league.

Assigning Tebow to the AFL, which has a development mission, made more sense for Tebow than a Latin American winter league, where the priority is winning, according to Alderson. Tebow also needed a location that allowed for easy travel to his college-football broadcasting duties with ESPN each weekend. Having Long in the area and Mets coach Tom Goodwin managing Scottsdale made it sensible, too.

"Look, there was a downside in the fact that everything gets graded in the Fall League," Alderson said. "The upside is he needs game competition in order to develop those kind of baseball instincts and peripheral skills that are so important. We actually thought he could hold his own in the batter's box. And I think he's largely done that. His strikeout rate is not horrendous. He's making decent contact and he's getting better.

"If you go to the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, those aren't exactly development leagues. Those are competition leagues. So, all in all, this was the best spot for him."

Goodwin said Tebow's bat speed has been his biggest improvement through 13 games played in the AFL. His fielding instincts have improved, too, since he face-planted into the outfield wall during the opening week.

"The bat is coming through the zone," Goodwin said. "I think he's recognizing pitches now better than he was then. He's been facing some tough lefties, too. ... He's done well. In the outfield he's moving around a lot better on his own. He's kind of reading swings out there, which is going to have to happen. Once we get his knee right I think we'll see the speed out there."

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