WASHINGTON — It may not have been what he pictured as a Heisman winning quarterback at Florida, but Tim Tebow got to live out a dream playing professional sports in his home state this summer.
And his adoring fans loved seeing it.
According to Jeff Lantz, communications director for Minor League Baseball, the Florida State League where he played the second half of the year went from averaging 1,300 fans a game to more like 1,500.
Tebow’s team, the St. Lucie Mets, also set a franchise attendance record with 132,359 fans, the third-highest attendance in the league.
“Tebow is obviously a big part of that,” Lantz explained. “He brought people out to the ballpark that maybe weren’t baseball fans, but they wanted to come see Tim Tebow play.”
“That’s great for our teams to be able to expose their product to these fans, and hopefully get them to come back later.”
Tebow, a Mets prospect, split time between the South Atlantic League and the FSL this summer. At age 30, he was approximately 7.5 years older than the after player in the SAL and 6.3 years older than the average player in the FSL, but developmentally, he was right on track.
Despite not playing baseball since high school, Tebow played well enough, hitting a combined slash line of .226/.309/.347. Perhaps more importantly, his numbers have risen as the competition improves, hitting better in low Single-A than the Arizona Fall League, and better in high Single-A than low Single-A.
He also brings the fans with him wherever he goes, increasing attendance in the SAL by 2 percent during his stint in Columbia.
At this rate, Tebow is likely to come back next year, even if he never figures into the Mets’ long-term plans. Even if it seems gimmicky, it can still be great for the game.