PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Be it on a Triple-A field in Syracuse or a tennis court in South Asia, Tim Tebow is still working, hoping for a shot at the majors.
Now 32, the former celebrated quarterback is back for his fifth year as a minor league outfielder for the New York Mets.
A two-time national champion at Florida who won the Heisman Trophy and later a playoff-winning QB for the Denver Broncos, Tebow was contacted by the XFL in its return to football action this season. He said he loves the opportunity the league is giving to players who will eventually, he feels, make an NFL roster.
“But for me, this is what I wanted to do and pursue it and be all-in. When I’m 50, I can’t come back and do this,” Tebow said Sunday at the Mets’ spring training complex. “This is part of a season and a time, and I feel I’m in that season. I don’t know when I’ll feel like I’m out.”
Tebow’s steady dedication has resulted in some odd workout locations, including one in the Maldives last month with his wife, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, a South African who was crowned Miss Universe in 2017.
The couple wedded on Jan. 20 in Franschhoek, South Africa, and honeymooned and participated in Tebow’s Night to Shine program internationally. While in Maldives on his honeymoon, Tebow got in some baseball work.
“(The Maldives) doesn’t have baseball cages there, but they do have a really sweet tennis court. I was able to get soft-toss against the back of the tennis net,” said Tebow, who sent footage out on social media. “People were like, ‘Dude, just stop.’”
“Our trip was so fast in the Vatican that I was thinking, ‘It would be kind of cool if I ran up the Vatican steps like Rocky,’ but I didn’t,” he said, laughing.
For the second consecutive year, his season ended with an injury in July. In 2018 it was surgery on the hamate bone in his right hand. Last season he attempted to field a ball hit to him with his bare left hand, resulting in eight stitches and the end of another campaign.
“I didn’t even know it. I picked the ball up and was like, ‘Yes, we held the guy at third.’ I glanced at my hand and saw blood going everywhere. That was frustrating. It’s just random, fluke things,” he said.
Tebow hit .163 with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 77 games last year in his first Triple-A action.
While Tebow is eager to improve, infielder Jed Lowrie wants a return to his former All-Star form.
Lowrie is wearing a brace on his left leg and said it gives him the best opportunity to play one of his multiple positions as a utility infielder.
“I’m just excited to be here and get back out on the field with the guys,” the 35-year-old Lowrie said. “We’ll just take it day-by-day.”
The versatile Lowrie was signed after the 2018 season and had a disappointing campaign from the start.
He opened 2019 with by experiencing pain in the back of his left leg as he ramped up his workout, and the ailment persisted throughout spring training. The 2018 All-Star was sidelined the remainder of the Grapefruit League and the first 140 games of the regular season.
On Sept. 7 at home against Philadelphia, he struck out against Drew Smyly in the Mets’ 5-0 loss — his first plate appearance with the Mets.
Lowrie, who begins the final season of a $20 million, two-year deal signed in free agency, had just seven at-bats as a pinch-hitter and never played the field. He began his physical therapy once the season ended — getting back into his “good routine,” he said.
Lowrie said he “absolutely” expects to participate Monday when the club’s first full-squad workout takes occurs.
NOTES: Eight-time All-Star 2B Robinson Canó spent the offseason working on improving his leg strength. “My goal this year is to stay healthy. I know if I’m healthy, I can be myself – the Robby that you guys always used to see playing this game,” said the 37-year-old Canó, who hit a career-low .256 while playing 107 games in his first season with the Mets.