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Tim Tebow’s 2nd Act

Discussion in 'GENERAL SPORTS TALK' started by Prime Time, Apr 9, 2017.

  1. Prime Time

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    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/09/...w-south-carolina-columbia-fireflies-mets.html

    Tebow’s 2nd Act Has South Carolina Giving Him the 1st-Class Treatment
    By DAVID WALDSTEIN

    [​IMG]
    Tim Tebow and his Fireflies teammates.
    Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times


    COLUMBIA, S.C. — In the autumn of 2007, Tim Tebow came to this town to deliver a crushing blow. Then the Florida Gators’ dynamic quarterback, Tebow cemented his destiny as that year’s Heisman Trophy winner by accounting for seven touchdowns against the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.

    Sitting in the stands in Williams-Brice Stadium that day, and watching glumly, was the Honorable Stephen K. Benjamin, who at that point was still three years away from being elected mayor here. At the end of Tebow’s display, Benjamin remembered having one thought: He was glad that Tebow was leaving town and hoped he was gone for good.

    Now, a decade later, Mayor Benjamin is thrilled to welcome Tebow back.

    “We are so glad he is finally on our side,” Benjamin said. “It’s a heck of a story.”

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    Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, S.C., greeted Tebow in the dugout.
    Credit Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images


    Tebow departed Columbia 10 years ago as an enemy in shoulder pads. But this past Thursday, he returned as a hero with a bat, bringing his remarkable, and sometimes polarizing, appeal to a town — and a region — ready to embrace him.

    In his very first at-bat for the Columbia Fireflies, the Mets’ Class A affiliate in the South Atlantic League, Tebow added another chapter to his enduring story by blasting a home run, delighting the 10,000 fans who had come to watch him, many of them wearing Tebow jerseys in all sorts of colors.

    Jeff Reed, 56, a lawn care specialist from nearby Blythwood, was in the crowd. Reed had actually been a fan of Tebow the football player despite living in a rival Southeastern Conference city. When Reed’s wife went to Denver a few years back, she returned with a No. 15 shirt that Tebow wore when he played quarterback for the N.F.L.’s Broncos. And for Tebow’s first game with the Fireflies, Reed wore it to the ballpark.

    “As soon as we heard he would be playing here, we bought tickets,” he said.

    So have fans from around the South Atlantic League, which includes teams from the Carolinas, Georgia, Kentucky and West Virginia, places where college football is king and where Tebow is revered for his gridiron prowess, his persona and, for many, his Christian faith.

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    Tebow during a game. His development must be accelerated into a shorter time frame than the typical Class A player.
    Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times


    His baseball abilities are another matter.

    Still, Jason Freier, the owner of the Fireflies, said the team had been hoping for months — ever since the Mets signed Tebow last September on what almost seemed to be a whim — that he would be assigned to Columbia. In the end, Freier got his wish.

    Actually, Columbia was a logical place for Tebow, 29, to begin his professional baseball career. The South Atlantic League is a fairly low rung on the minor league ladder, making it a less challenging environment for an athlete who had been away from the sport for 12 years.

    But even if it made perfect sense for Tebow to start here, the Fireflies took nothing for granted. Over the past few months, they have been in constant communication with the Mets — in part at the urging of Benjamin, who said he pestered the Fireflies’ team president, John Katz, nonstop to prod the Mets.

    Freier said even fellow owners around the league were asking when the decision would be made official. They, too, were eager to start marketing their Tebow ticket packages for the dates when the Fireflies would visit their towns.

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    Students at the University of South Carolina wore different Tebow jerseys to the game.
    Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times


    Now, that marketing is in full force.

    “They tell me they have been selling well,” Freier said of the league’s other owners. “As soon as the announcement was made last month, about 20-25 friends in the business called and told me: ‘You won the lottery. It’s a marketing bonanza.’ It is as unique a set of circumstances as you will find.”

    Freier, who owns two other minor league clubs, said that before Tebow arrived here, he and members of his staff researched the next-closest set of circumstances: Michael Jordan’s foray into minor league baseball in 1994 for the Class AA Birmingham Barons.

    They read articles about that chapter of Jordan’s life, watched an ESPN documentary and spoke to people who were in Birmingham at the time.

    With that as preparation, they then welcomed Tebow to Columbia – the capital of South Carolina, with a population exceeding 130,000 — and got ready for the whirlwind he seems likely to stir up, some of it financial.

    “Does anybody think he is a legitimate baseball prospect?” said Robert Boland, the director of Ohio University’s sports-management program. “Probably not. But Tebow will likely have an enormous effect on ticket and merchandise sales in a very powerful way.”

    Normally, minor league teams market a family-friendly experience rather than individual players, because those players often spend no more than one season at a given minor league stop.

    Tebow, as is often the case, is the exception. However long he is in Columbia, he is almost certain to be the focus.

    The Fireflies’ souvenir shop sells T-shirts with only one player’s name on them — Tebow’s. Freier said that in 11 years owning three teams, he has seen such treatment extended to just one other minor leaguer.

    In that instance, a player named Josh Van Meter had been a star at Norwell High School in Indiana, and when he joined Freier’s Fort Wayne TinCaps, Freier made up shirts with the hometown hero’s name.

    Tebow, of course, is in a far different category. Freier said that when it became clear Tebow would be joining the Fireflies, national media executives told him that Tebow was second only to Tiger Woods over the past few decades when it came to measuring the appeal of an athlete in terms of online page views, clicks and overall video content.

    On a micro level, local businesses are hoping Tebow’s arrival radiates all the way to their cash registers. Scott Hall owns the Bone In BBQ food truck that parks outside the Fireflies’ stadium. While not a devout sports fan, he knew enough to compute Tebow’s potential impact on his business.

    “At first I was like, ‘Wait, isn’t this the wrong sport?’” Hall said. “But we’re really excited he’s here. We want to get him out here and get a ton of barbecue in him.”

    For Hall and others, the hope is that Tebow can thread the needle of being good enough to stay in the Fireflies’ lineup but not so good that the Mets quickly promote him. And despite his home run Thursday, a quick rise in the Mets’ system for Tebow seems unlikely. In his first two games, Tebow went two for 10 with four strikeouts as the Augusta Greenjackets quickly figured him out at the plate.

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    Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times

    In front of a little over 5,000 people on Friday, Augusta even intentionally walked the bases loaded to have a lefty pitcher face the left-handed Tebow, and he popped out to end that inning.

    By then, most of the two dozen members of the news media that had assembled for Tebow’s debut on Thursday were gone, leaving behind a famous athlete looking to settle into a more-or-less normal baseball routine while figuring out if he has what it takes to somehow make it all the way to the major leagues. That verdict may take a while, but not that long.

    “This is the ultimate up-or-out business,” Freier said.

    Clay Rapada, a former major league pitcher and the Augusta pitching coach, said he could see that Tebow had a plan when he got into the batter’s box. But Tebow’s development must be accelerated into a shorter time frame than the typical Class A player.

    “He hit a mistake,” Rapada said of the home run. Still, he noted, “that’s what the big boys in the major leagues get paid a lot of money to do.”

    Tebow, who endured intense scrutiny playing in places like Gainesville in Florida or big cities throughout the N.F.L., knows that people are watching him again but shrugs off the pressure now back on his enormous shoulders.

    “All of my sports experiences helped me for a moment like this,” he said. “They all help.”

    And after Thursday’s home run, and a football-sounding 14-7 victory by the Fireflies, Tebow gave a rousing speech to a roomful of coaches and teammates.

    One of them was Dash Winningham, a 21-year-old first baseman who is the Fireflies’ real on-field star. He grew up in Ocala, Fla., a short drive from Gainesville. When Winningham was a boy, Tebow was his favorite football player; he was not alone.

    “Where I come from, Tim Tebow is like a god,” Winingham said. “But he is really just one of the guys. A little older, maybe, but totally down to earth. Looking around during pregame introductions, it was pretty surreal to think that all of a sudden, we’re teammates.”

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    Tebow and teammates at the end of a game.
    Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times


    As part of those opening-night ceremonies on Thursday, Benjamin threw out the first pitch, then went to the home dugout to shake hands with the man who made his Saturdays so miserable a decade ago.

    But now, Benjamin sees Tebow as a real attraction for his city, and maybe even for the sport Tebow is now trying to master. At least that was the prevailing feeling after Thursday’s game.

    “When you think about what he represents,” Benjamin said, “even in a Class A minor league system, he may in fact be the new face of baseball.”

    That would seem to be an overstatement, but then again that’s what a little bit of Tebowmania can do to you.
     
  2. Prime Time

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    http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2017/04/09/tebow-hits-another-home-run/

    Tebow hits another home run
    Posted by Mike Florio on April 9, 2017

    [​IMG]AP

    Tim Tebow has come a long way from his One-Man Baseball Fantasy Camp.

    The former NFL quarterback hit his second home run in the minor leagues — in only three games with the Class A Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies.

    It was a three-run shot against the Augusta (Ga.) Greenjackets (really?), and the ball went well over the right-centerfield fence.

    Tebow, a first round pick of the Broncos in 2010, is batting .250 (three for 12) with a walk. The home run gave the unbeaten Fireflies a 6-0 lead.

    And so the question becomes when the Mets will move him up in their farm system. And if this unlikely late-20s effort to become a professional baseball player is something much more than the publicity stunt it initially seemed to be.
     
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  3. Dodgersrf

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    He must be a decent draw for a minor league club.

    I have the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes here in So Cal. Its a great time and very cheap to go to a game. They're currently affiliated with the Dodgers, so you can occasional catch a star player rehabbing before being sent back up.
     
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  4. Prime Time

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    When I was a kid we lived in a house in San Diego overlooking Padres stadium. My dad took me there many times to see them when they were still a minor league team. Good times!
     
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  5. Merlin

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    Dude will just about pay for his crappy minor league salary with the crowd he attracts to the games. Good for him, although he's gonna have to hit better than .250 if he wants to cruise through the world's most grueling minor league system.

    Baseball's no joke man. But at least you know he's got the work ethic. Hopefully he'll go on a tear and at least get himself up to some AA level before he's 30.
     
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