Why Tim Tebow will play baseball for the Philippines

Tim Tebow, who is in the New York Mets minor league system, will play for the Philippines in next month's World Baseball Classic qualifiers. Jim Rassol/USA TODAY Sports

Former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who is in the New York Mets' minor league system, will play for the Philippines in next month's World Baseball Classic qualifiers.

How is Tebow eligible to play for the Philippines and how did the Philippine Amateur Baseball Association (PABA) make it happen?

"We saw his name on the candidates list and we really didn't think much about it," PABA President Joaquin 'Chito' Loyzaga told ESPN5. "But then we got word that he was interested and being born in the Philippines made him eligible."

Tebow's parents were missionaries in the Philippines when he was born at the Makati Medical Center in 1987. The family moved to Florida when he was 3 years old.

"I'm kind of excited about it,'' Tebow said Wednesday. "I think it's cool.''

The Philippines is in Pool 2 of the qualifiers, along with the Czech Republic, Great Britain, New Zealand and Panama. The top two teams will advance to next year's World Baseball Classic. The qualifying games will be held Mar. 20-25 in Tucson, Arizona. The Philippines is ranked No. 22 in the world by the International Baseball Federation.

"We were able to make it happen through the assistance of Major League Baseball, who helped us with the connection," Loyzaga said. PABA Secretary General Pepe Muñoz was in touch with Tebow's manager in the Mets' minor league system.

Loyzaga, best known for his career playing for Barangay Ginebra in the Philippine Basketball Association, has ties to baseball dating back to 2007 when he was involved with Baseball Philippines, a professional baseball circuit. He has been the PABA President since 2018.

Loyzaga is counting on the attention Tebow's participation brings to help raise baseball's profile in the Philippines. The Philippines was invited to the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in 2013 and 2017 but has never advanced to the main tournament.

"We will have a team of 28 players, and about 15 will be homegrown talents," Loyzaga said. "We leave on Mar. 17 to give them time to acclimatize and get to know the manager."

The PABA chose Los Angeles Pierce College manager Bill Picketts to lead the team comprised of Filipino players from Japan, Australia and the United States.

Picketts was in the Philippines last January to advise the federation on the composition of the team, and to scout for potential players for the squad.

"Bill [Picketts] was also instrumental in hooking us up with the community and it fast-tracked our goal to communicate with Tim Tebow," Loyzaga said. "Bill's wife [Eden] is Filipina, and he was introduced to us by Oscar Marcelino, a Filipino who was familiar with the baseball community. After meeting with Bill we felt that he was the person who can not only help us in our goal of qualifying for the tournament, but also help expand our programs moving forward."

The Philippines will first play No. 26-ranked Czech Republic on Mar. 20.