Surprise! Tim Tebow doesn’t know all the ins-and-outs of baseball as well as the pros.
Actually, that shouldn’t be a surprise at all. Tebow, the 29-year-old Heisman winner who is trying to forge a baseball career as a New York Mets minor leaguer, hasn’t played organized baseball since he was a junior in high school. That’s quite a lay-off, no doubt. So marching Tebow out as a spring-training sideshow attraction, as the Mets did on Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox and reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, is only setting him up to look foolish.
That’s exactly what happened, both in the small moments and the big ones. Tebow was 0-for-3 in the game, with a couple strikeouts. He grounded into a double play and was hit by a pitch, but was quickly doubled off first base on a line drive to second. But you shouldn’t expect a guy who just started a pro baseball career a few months ago to hit big-league pitching any more than you should expect him to know the unwritten rules and unspoken protocols that have been drilled into his fellow players for years.
Look no further than a moment before his first at-bat against Porcello when Tebow went to the wrong on-deck circle. Writes Scott Lauber over at ESPN:
Even simple baseball etiquette appears foreign to Tebow. Before his first at-bat, he walked to the Red Sox’s on-deck circle, presumably to get a better look at Porcello’s delivery as he warmed up. Mets manager Terry Collins and coach Tom Goodwin waved Tebow back toward the Mets’ dugout. Porcello later laughed off the faux pas, joking that he thought Tebow was the ballboy.
“I thought you walk around [to the first-base side of the field] because you’re a left-hander,” Tebow said. “I found out that you don’t do that.”
That example proves something that Mets teammates are saying about Tebow: He doesn’t grasp the nuance of the game — and that applies whether we’re talking about pre-at-bat regimens or how to not look foolish against a big-league breaking ball.
“He’s so far behind on the nuances of the game,” said Mets outfielder Jay Bruce, who joined veteran Curtis Granderson in counseling Tebow over lunch and in the dugout during the game. “It’s not like he wasted his time. He’s been doing other worthwhile things. Just not playing and understanding the game of baseball at a very, very high level.”
This isn’t necessarily a knock on Tebow. Like Bruce says, it’s the reality of adapting to pro baseball 10 years after the people you’re playing against. The learning curve is steep. And thus the challenge for Tebow is immense.
The Mets are giving him a chance to prove himself, though. He’ll be back in the lineup Friday, and he’ll be playing the outfield too. That’s another chance to learn and, conversely, another chance to potentially embarrass himself. It might sound cruel, but it’s true.
And it’s what Tebow signed up for.
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