PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Tim Tebow said Tuesday he realizes he still has “a long way to go” to be a successful professional baseball player, but he is focused on improving and not his statistics, which he said don’t tell the whole story.
Called up to the New York Mets‘ advanced Class A affiliate in the Florida State League earlier this week, Tebow was scheduled to bat eighth for his debut with the St. Lucie Mets on Tuesday but the game was postponed because of rain. He is expected to be an everyday player for however long he’s with the club.
He said he believes he has improved from when he began this season but has much room to grow.
“Hopefully I have gotten better in every area. Whether that is hitting or ID’ing pitches, on the base path, trying to play defense, you know trying to work on everything and improve on everything every day. I feel like I have a long way to go, but I feel like I’m getting better every day,” he said before the game against the Palm Beach Cardinals.
“You have to be honest with yourself as an athlete. That’s something I try to do. I look at my at-bats and how I played the field and what I did and I try to be honest with myself with where I’m at and what I have to do to improve.”
Tebow was a .220 hitter for the Columbia Fireflies in the lower-level South Atlantic League before his promotion. He had three home runs — two in his first three games — and 23 RBIs. But the Heisman Trophy winner for the University of Florida said statistics aren’t a true measure of how he is performing.
“I think first you have to look at how you did. What did you do? Not just the numbers or the results,” he said. “How did I do in those at-bats? What were my strengths and weaknesses? Where can I improve? Some games you might hit three for four really hard. You might hit them right through people. In another game you might get two little dinkers that are hits. You’re 2-for-3 with a walk, then people are like, ‘Congratulations, look at your batting average.’
“You know as an athlete that’s fake, but the other was real. You can’t fool yourself. You have to be honest with yourself as an athlete. That’s something I try to do. I look at my at-bats and how I played the field and what I did and I try to be honest with myself with where I’m at and what I have to do to improve.”
Tebow is wearing No. 15 for St. Lucie, just as he did at Columbia and when he was a national title-winning quarterback for the Gators. He also wore that number in the NFL. A shirt with his name and number was already for sale on the St. Lucie team website early Tuesday.
For Tebow’s debut, team officials were expecting around 5,000 fans. More workers were brought in to handle the much-bigger-than-usual crowd.
Tebow said he expects his challenges at St. Lucie to be “slightly magnified” from what he experienced with Columbia.
“I think pitching will probably be slightly better, but [I’ll] just take everything I’ve been working on and continue to adjust and get better every day. It’s not just about the result of each day. It’s about the improvement and continuing to focus on that,” he said.
Columbia’s average home attendance for Tebow games was 5,308, a 40 percent increase over what the Fireflies averaged a year ago. St. Lucie came into Tuesday averaging 1,745 fans per game, fifth-best in the FSL. The team’s most recent home game on Sunday had an attendance of 789.
Tebow said he isn’t getting caught up about thinking about his future, instead focusing on the present.
“It’s a scary place to get caught up in, the ‘where’s this going to lead,’ ‘what’s going to happen to my future,’ ‘what is the next day,”’ Tebow said. “I get today. Tomorrow’s not promised. I’m going to make the most of today.
“And that sounds cliché, but gosh, I hope when you look at my life 10, 20, 30 years from now, you can see somebody that they really took advantage of that day.”
Tebow, 29, admitted that “sometimes you’ll feel a little old” compared to his much younger teammates.
“Sometimes the guys make comments like, ‘I remember when you did this and I was in eighth grade.’ What? Or they’ll ask [for] stories like I’m a grandfather. ‘What was it like when you played this person?’ What? I’m not that old,” he said. “Sometimes you do feel old, but sometimes I feel like a big brother to a lot of the guys.”
The big league Mets were playing two hours south in Miami on Tuesday night. It’s a short drive, but Tebow knows he’s a long way from the majors.
“That’s not something I focus on. Not something I think about. It’s a great question because that would be a great headline, but it’s not something I’m focused on,” he said. “You root for the Mets and watch their games and get to be friends with them, but I’m playing for the Port St. Lucie Mets right now. That’s where my focus has to be.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.