Tampa, FL – The Tim Tebow Effect made its way to Tampa for the first time since the former Heisman Trophy winner was promoted to the Florida State League. Tebow has been a huge draw for both Columbia and St. Lucie as well as any venue he plays at as a visitor. Arriving for a 4 game set on Thursday, Aug 10, the Tampa Yankees have felt the effects of Tebow Mania at the ticket office. The Yankees, who average about 1,000 fans per game have seen crowds of 3,232 on Thursday, 4,619 on Friday, 7,157 on Saturday, 4619 on Sunday.
Much to the disappointment of the fans and 21 media members on Thursday, Tebow did not start, only coming in as a defensive replacement late in the game. And that puts Mets Manager Chad Kreuter in a precarious position. Tebow, who hasn’t played competitive baseball since high school, needs to be able to take days off. Unfortunately, the casual fan is there for one thing only: Tebow. They don’t care that Estevan Florial is a 19 year old Top 100 prospect that has a hit in every game since being promoted to the FSL. They don’t care that Tebow’s teammate, Peter Alonso, also a University of Florida alum, has hit 10 HR in 41 games over July and August.
I attended the game Saturday night and sat in the stands in the midst of blue and orange. There were fans repping Mets, Broncos, and Gators gear that cheered wildly every time Tebow came to the plate or made a play in the field. And much like the viral video of Tebow shaking a young boy’s hand who has Autism and then hitting a HR, the legend of Tebow continued to grow during the 7th inning stretch. It was then that the crowd stood and both teams lined up in front of their dugouts for the singing of “God Bless America.” A young girl accompanied by her father walked onto the field and approached the microphone. He stated that his daughter has never had a bad day in her life and did not allow her cerebral palsy to diminish her happiness. She was going to sing for us and her only request was to have Tim Tebow help her.
This is the sort of thing that only seems to happen to Tebow. This was something completely unplanned, but the video, which has since gone viral, shows not only the impact that he has on young people but that the casual fan wants to root for the good guy, even if that good guy is a soon to be 30-year-old former football player trying to make it as a minor leaguer. In the midst of so-called sports journalists yelling at each other for hours, pro athletes derailing their seasons with suspensions, and the overall turmoil we are facing in America as citizens, Tebow being Tebow is a breath of fresh air. What I wish would’ve gotten for all to see was this girl’s reaction to meeting Tebow. It’s the reactions to meeting him that warms the heart.
If that wasn’t enough for the legend of Tebow, his final at bat of the game, in the top of the 9th inning, added fuel to the growing circus of Tim Tebow, the minor leaguer. No, he did not hit a home run like he did a few weeks ago after shaking an Autistic kid’s hand. No he did not strike out for the 3rd time of the game. He took a high 90’s fastball to the helmet and not only remained standing, but stayed in the game and scored the only run of the night for St. Lucie.
For the weekend, Tebow went 1-10 with 5 strikeouts, a HBP, and 2 runs scored and 1 RBI. To his credit, he wasn’t the only St. Lucie Met to struggle. The Yankees swept the 4 game set, outscoring the Mets 31-11.
On a personal note, I experienced a bit of the Tebow Mania myself. My video of Tebow accompanying the young girl singing was picked up by MLB, CBS, Bleacher Report, and Barstool Sports. Now if I can only get these outlets to pay attention to Estevan Florial, Erik Swanson, Tim Lynch, Anthony Dimino, and the rest of the prospects fighting alongside Tebow to get to the big leagues.