Tim Tebow is still a hero in small town America

Tim Tebow was a Heisman Trophy winning college football player and, briefly, a starting quarterback in the NFL. Nowadays, he’s a football analyst for ESPN.

Tebow has been mocked and vilified by some on the left. Why? Because he openly displays his Christian faith.

Last weekend, Tebow came to Hagerstown, Maryland. He came as a member of the Columbia (South Carolina) Fireflies, a New York Mets farm team in the South Atlantic League, to play the Hagerstown Suns. The South Atlantic League is classified as “Low A” ball. It is four levels below the major leagues.

I frequently attend Hagerstown games. Attendance typically falls short of 1,000 people.

However, 22,578 turned up at Municipal Stadium for the Suns’ four games against Columbus. The Suns say this is a record for the 87 year-old ball park. Apparently, it exceeds the attendance for when Bryce Harper debuted in professional baseball at Hagerstown.

From this excellent article by Barry Svrgula of the Washington Post, it’s clear that fans didn’t show up out of mere curiosity. Many came because they admire Tebow, regarding him as a role model. Unless you’re anti-Christian, it’s easy to see why:

When the game ended, Tebow signed autographs for those fans clamoring for him behind home plate. But a Mets staffer and his own security detail eventually coaxed him out to right field, toward the clubhouses. There stood a few dozen participants in Tebow’s “Night to Shine” program, a prom experience for kids with special needs put on through Tebow’s foundation.

When Tebow arrived, he embraced anyone who approached. He called people by name. He took a picture with one kid, spun 180 degrees to take a picture with another, spun back and smiled for the next frame. One girl held a sign adorned with her prom picture and sparkly words that read, “Thank you, Tim Tebow. From Princess Sarah. Night to Shine.”

“You’re so welcome,” Tebow said time and again.

Inside the clubhouse, the rest of the Fireflies were well on their way to showering, to packing, to boarding the bus for the drive, more than seven hours, back to Columbia, S.C. At some point, Tebow had to join them.

“Before I have to go,” he said to the group, “can I get some big hugs?”

Tebow’s chances of playing major league baseball are almost non-existent. He’s 29 years old playing in a league where, if you’re 23, you’re a “suspect” rather than a prospect. Sure, one must allow for the fact that he’s new to professional baseball. However, with a batting average of under .220 and only three home runs, it’s hard to imagine Tebow making the long climb to the big leagues.

But I admire Tebow for giving it a shot by playing in the “bushes,” and taking all those long, long bus rides, just as I admired Michael Jordan for doing so (two levels up the food chain in “Double A” baseball). As Svrluga, who gets Tebow and his fans, concludes:

Think he couldn’t throw a football properly? Think he should give baseball a rest? Talk to the people who made the pilgrimage here, and look at the smiles in right field in the early evening Sunday night before you form your full opinion.

NOTE: I can’t provide a scouting report on Tebow because I didn’t go to any of the games. Friday night was my opportunity, but I decided to attend a “High A” game in Potomac (Virgina) in order to check out 19 year-old Triston McKenzie. A member of the Cleveland Indians organization, he is rated one of the top 50 prospects in all of the minor leagues.

McKenzie stands 6-5 and weighs 165 pounds. He makes Tom “The Blade” Hall look stout (old-time Twins fans will get the reference).

McKenzie pitches with savvy well beyond his years. The scout sitting near me clocked his fastball at 91 miles per hour. That’s not exceptional, but you have to think his velocity will increase as he fills out.

This year, his first full season in pro ball, McKenzie has struck out 71 batters in 58 innings. His ERA is 2.65.

I would like to have seen Tim Tebow, but for me minor league baseball is all about the future, not the past.

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