Tim Tebow's Baseball Dream

Pursuing what you love is great advice. And when you’re a rich and famous celebrity, you can afford to do it.

Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow smiles during a workout for baseball scouts and the media during a showcase at the University of Southern California on August 30, 2016.
Chris Carlson / AP

Tim Tebow, the star college quarterback turned washed-up NFL quarterback turned ESPN analyst, is attempting to make yet another career pivot—this time, to professional baseball. But after his workout in front of Major League Baseball scouts Tuesday in Los Angeles, that career change might be a stretch.

Tebow’s name alone was enough to guarantee that a sizeable audience showed up to his special one-person tryout. And the fact that Tebow, 29, looks as fit as he ever has probably didn’t hurt, either. But the former football player’s actual baseball ability, as one unnamed scout told ESPN after the workout, “has a long way to go.”

Another scout was less generous. The anonymous source told USA TODAY the tryout “was a complete waste of time. It was like watching an actor trying to portray a baseball player.” The scout added, “He tried. He tried. That’s the best I can say. He is crazy strong, and could run well in one direction, but that’s it. He only had one good throw of all his throws.’’

At the plate, Tebow struggled to make contact, though he did crush one fastball well out of the park. In the field, ESPN reported, he “looked mechanical at times, had a misstep or two with his footwork, and showed a throwing arm that one scout gave a 40 grade.” (On baseball’s 20 to 80 scouting scale, with 80 being the highest, baseball website Fangraphs says 50 is the major league average). Still, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wrote, “A few big league teams talked privately with Tebow after the workout, and he seems unlikely to have trouble finding an organization willing to give a chance to a celebrity with clear baseball ability, however rudimentary.” Tebow hasn’t played organized baseball since high school.

After his tryout, Tebow said, “For me, you pursue what you love regardless of what else happens. If you fail or fall flat on your face, and that’s the worst thing that can happen, it’s OK. When did pursuing what you love become such a bad thing? I’ll make all the sacrifices to be the best I can.”

That’s easy for him to say. Tebow has been a household name since his days as Florida’s Heisman-winning, God-praising quarterback. He can hold a tryout and have 28 MLB teams show up out of curiosity. If he fails, he faces no consequences, beyond perhaps, bruised pride. Pursuing what you love is great advice. And when you’re a rich and famous celebrity with nothing to risk except embarrassing yourself, you can afford to do it. It’s not difficult to believe Tebow when he says he’s not doing this for publicity or money.

After a stellar college career, Tebow was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft and signed a five-year deal that guaranteed him $8.7 million. After two up-and-down seasons with the Broncos, he was traded to the New York Jets in 2012, where he spent one season, followed by a brief stint with the New England Patriots before the 2013 season. Nearly two years later in April 2015, Tebow signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, but was released before the season began.

After that, Tebow tried his hand at broadcasting for ESPN, wrote an autobiography, grew his charity foundation, and starred in a documentary about his life. He might have stopped playing football, but he didn’t fade out of public consciousness. People know who Tebow is, and more importantly, baseball teams know that people know, and they’ll consider signing him for publicity alone.

For his part, Tebow continues to frame his path to professional baseball in terms of hard work and practice, emphasizing his commitment to working his way up through the minors. According to ESPN, Tebow’s agent Brodie Van Wagenen said, “the ideal scenario” would be Tebow signing with a team in time to play for MLB’s development league in Arizona in the fall.

But even Tebow knows that if he’s signed by a team, he’ll have his fame to thank. MLB catcher Chad Moeller, who’s been training Tebow, told USA TODAY earlier this month, Tebow “knows he’s partially a sideshow to start with.”

Moeller added, “But he does want a team that actually thinks this is for real.”