Former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow's baseball career doesn’t quite measure up to NBA legend Michael Jordan's baseball résumé -- not yet, at least.
Tebow, who signed a minor-league contract with the New York Mets in September, completed the six-week Arizona Fall League season on Thursday with a .194 average (12-for-62).
Jordan, albeit already with a Double-A regular season under his belt at that point, hit .252 (31-for-123) in the Arizona Fall League in 1994 while dabbling in the sport after several standout years in the NBA.
Tebow produced three doubles, two RBIs and eight walks while striking out 20 times in 62 at-bats and stealing one base in three attempts. That was good for a .296 on-base percentage and .242 slugging percentage.
He also was hit by one pitch, which led Tigers prospect Spencer Turnbull to lightheartedly tweet Monday:
— Spencer Turnbull (@spencerturnbull) November 14, 2016
Among the other memorable AFL events for Tebow: comforting an autograph-seeking fan who had a seizure and briefly was unconscious until paramedics arrived, face-planting into the left-field wall while pursuing a fly ball, getting sidelined for almost a week because of a knee injury suffered while awkwardly sliding, and having Scottsdale teammate/Phillies prospect Aaron Brown dress up as him -- including wearing Denver Broncos garb -- on Halloween.
Despite shortcomings in the outfield, Tebow seemed to make strides at the plate as the AFL season progressed, especially in terms of catching up to fastballs. He repeatedly was rolling over and sending weak grounders to the right side of the infield during the opening week. In fact, excluding an 0-for-13 start, Tebow hit .245 the rest of the way in the league.
Until participating in the Mets’ instructional league two months ago, the 29-year-old Tebow had not played organized baseball since his junior year of high school. Overall, Tebow’s .194 average ranked 61st among 69 AFL qualifiers.
“I think he’s recognizing pitches now better than he was then,” said Scottsdale manager Tom Goodwin, contrasting Tebow’s hitting ability at the end of the AFL season versus when he arrived.
Tebow will remain in Arizona for parts of the remainder of the offseason, working with Mets hitting coach Kevin Long.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said it is undecided whether Tebow will be invited to big league camp or head directly to minor league camp once spring training arrives. Alderson seemed to hint at the latter, though. Regarding big league camp, the GM said last week, the day after Tebow had a walk-off RBI single for the Scottsdale Scorpions: “A couple of additional walk-off hits, he might merit consideration.”
Even if Tebow is assigned to minor league camp, he still regularly could be borrowed for Grapefruit League games.
“The guy is going through kind of a warp-speed development process,” Alderson said. “Who knows what’s going to happen at the end?”
Whether Tebow will break camp in 2017 with a full-season minor league team such as the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies is a decision to be made even further down the road, according to Alderson. The alternative is to stay in extended spring training when the top minor leaguers break camp in early April and then begin the season playing with a short-season team such as the Brooklyn Cyclones, whose games begin in June.
Alderson did seem to indicate that playing with a full-season team would be optimal. The GM nonetheless noted that team assignments for all minor leaguers -- not just Tebow -- will be made late in spring training, after instructors get several weeks to evaluate farmhands in camp.
Tebow’s AFL stint was interrupted weekly by his college football broadcasting duties with ESPN. He would play Monday through Thursday, then spend the next two days in a Southeastern Conference city. The AFL is dark on Sundays.
Tebow acknowledged that the continuity of playing uninterrupted in spring training probably would aid his development.
“It will definitely be nice to be able to continue the rhythm every day,” he said.
Asked if he missed being the best on the field, which presumably was the case for some of his life as a football player, Tebow said: “One day you want to get there. You have to put in the work, and it’s a process. You want to keep getting better every day. You want to be the best you can be. So that’s the goal.”