PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Tim Tebow put his head down and began the slow jog across the field back to the New York Mets' dugout.
That's when the roar started.
Tebow had just grounded into a double play in the second at-bat of his first major league spring training game Wednesday. Yet he was getting a standing ovation from a large crowd at First Data Field.
Tebow's debut -- he batted eighth and played the entire game as the Mets' designated hitter -- featured a little of everything, except a hit for the Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback turned minor league baseball hopeful. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in an 8-7 victory over the Red Sox.
There was the called third strike at the knees from reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello that froze Tebow in the third inning. And there was the pitch from Red Sox lefty Brian Johnson, a fellow University of Florida product, that grazed Tebow's right shoulder in the sixth, after which Tebow was doubled off first base on a soft line drive to second.
"I think I learned a lot of things," said Tebow, who will open the season in the minors, although the Mets haven't announced at what level he will begin. "Just getting in there and seeing pitches for the first time, competing. I mean, I felt OK, put some good swings when I swung. You just learn. It was the first day for me, getting a chance to compete, and I'll learn a lot from it."
One lesson came before his first at-bat. Tebow walked to the Red Sox's on-deck circle rather than making a beeline to home plate, a breach of baseball etiquette. Manager Terry Collins quickly waved Tebow back to the Mets' side of the field as Porcello completed his warm-up pitches.
"I thought you walk around [to the first-base side of the field] because you're a left-hander," Tebow said. "I found out you don't do that."
Said Porcello: "I didn't know who that was. I thought it was a ballboy. It didn't bother me."
Collins said he would like to see Tebow take a more aggressive approach at the plate when he plays for the Mets again Friday in a split-squad game against the Houston Astros in Port St. Lucie.
Tebow said he intentionally was trying to be "disciplined" at the plate. He also disagreed with home-plate umpire Ryan Addition's strike zone, believing a called third strike from Porcello was too low and two called strikes from reliever Brandon Workman in the eighth inning were too far inside.
"I saw the ball better than probably it looked," Tebow said. "I was trying to be very disciplined up there. Didn't necessarily work out in my favor. But take it as a learning opportunity and get better with it."
The game wasn't sold out, with the Mets announcing a crowd of 6,538 at their 7,000-seat ballpark. According to a team official, the Mets already expected a large crowd against the Red Sox, whose fans tend to travel well, before it was announced late last week that Tebow would be coming from minor league camp to play in the game.
As Tebow took batting practice, most of the Red Sox's traveling squad watched from the top step of the dugout, eager to see him take swings. Tebow hit several towering home runs, including an opposite-field shot that clanged off the bottom of the scoreboard in left field.
"He's obviously been the talk of the town lately and guys were just pretty astonished, actually," Ramirez said. "He's got some pretty good pop. The ball comes off his bat pretty well, so obviously it was a show. He's a ballplayer."