Yes, Tim Tebow is well aware of Michael Jordan’s attempt at baseball. Tebow grew up a huge Chicago Bulls and Jordan fan. He remembers the stories and documentaries about the world’s greatest basketball player trying to do arguably the most difficult thing in sports: consistently hit a baseball.
“It’s something that he had the heart for and he went after it, so yeah, I admire people who go after something they want,” Tebow said in an interview with CBS Sports. “And I want to be someone that goes after what I’m passionate about and what I want, and not let the fear of failure or anything else get in the way.”
Here we go again. Twenty-two years after the public anger over Jordan giving pro baseball a shot at the age of 31, Tebow faces intense criticism and mockery by giving baseball a shot with the New York Mets organization.
Maybe this time we should put down the pitchforks. Maybe this time we should allow one of the country’s most famous athletes to bring more national attention on a sport that could use it. Maybe this time we should just let it be.
Is this a publicity stunt? Tebow, who has a book coming out soon and conducted this interview as a spokesman for the Allstate American Football Coaches Association’s Good Works Team, swears it’s not.
“One thing I’m grateful for is I don’t have to listen to what other people say about my life, and I don’t have to be defined by that,” Tebow said. “I’m defined by what God says about me and I get to go pursue what’s in my heart. I’m grateful to live in a country where we don’t have to do what other people want us to do.”
Does anyone really think Tebow’s experiment, after he was away from the game for 11 years, will turn out well in pro baseball? No, not really. Tebow even sounds realistic about how this may play out.
“It’s just getting in there and progressing and obviously doing it at a really fast rate,” Tebow said. “I know I’m a little older than some people would have liked. I’m excited about this challenge.”
There are fair questions about why Tebow is so excited for this challenge that he won’t devote himself to baseball full-time. Tebow reports to the Mets’ Instructional League workouts next Monday in Port St. Lucie, Florida. He will miss Friday and Saturday practices because the Mets are letting him fulfill his obligation to ESPN and the SEC Network through the college football season.
“I enjoy (broadcasting) and I love it and I’m grateful to do it, but the biggest reason is I gave my word and my word means a lot to me so I wouldn’t just back out in the middle of the season,” Tebow said. “My word means too much to me to do that.”
How does Tebow answer the question of how he can hit live pitching after 11 years out of the game?
“The good thing is I don’t have to answer those questions,” he said. “I just have to do it. I’ll just look forward to pursuing that, and seeing as many pitches as I can, and getting the hand-eye coordination down, and being able to do the best I can.”
Admittedly, you or I or anyone else don’t really understand where Tebow currently resides in his life. It’s not our life to live.
Jordan tried baseball after the sudden murder of his father, James Jordan Sr., who was an avid baseball fan. He had long dreamed of his son playing in the major leagues, and that seemed to trigger nostalgia within the world’s greatest basketball player to give baseball a shot.
It’s not totally clear what triggered Tebow’s interest. He said he thought about trying baseball for several years and believes his “rollercoaster” football career will prepare himself mentally for baseball.
The advertising for Tebow’s new book, Shaken, says it will “pull back the curtain on his life, sharing the vulnerable moments of his career that have shaken him to his core — while also teaching the biblical principles that will enable you to keep the faith, no matter what comes your way.” The book is due out in October.
Tebow became a college football legend at Florida. He was drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos and helped lead them to the playoffs in 2011. But Tebow also had a 48-percent career completion rate in three years while throwing 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Tebow said it’s fair to say his pursuit of baseball means he’s closing the door on the NFL. Did he get a fair shot in the NFL? Tebow laughed, but dodged the question and said he’s not sure.
“There were some pretty special highs, but there were also some pretty big lows,” Tebow said. “So for me, it was something that I’m grateful that I didn’t have to live the rollercoaster the rest of my life. But there were times you could fall into the trap of the highs and the lows.”
Tebow won’t say how long he’s going to give himself in baseball. He batted .494 as an all-state high school player, and his former high school coach has long said he believed Tebow could have played in the majors.
Jordan stuck around the Birmingham Barons for one season, and it might have been longer if not for the MLB players strike in 1995. In 1994, Jordan hit .202 with three home runs, 51 RBI, 30 stolen bases and 114 strikeouts. Later, he improved to a .252 average in the Arizona Fall League.
If those numbers sound pedestrian, well, they were. But we also got to see a 31-year-old NBA star willingly be unafraid of failing for everyone to see as he pursued his baseball itch.
And if there’s one similarity between Jordan and Tebow, maybe it’s that they both seemed to seek something from the journey and not the result.
“Am I extremely competitive? Absolutely,” Tebow said. “Is that hard to be able to close that door (as a competitive athlete)? Absolutely. But at the same time, competition doesn’t define my life. I could definitely move on from competition and be totally at peace.
“I think this is more a passion thing for me. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’m excited about it. I’m excited about the pursuit of it, too, and the journey. It’s not just the destination. It’s not just if I get to a certain level. It’s enjoying the process of it.”
Whatever Tebow seeks from baseball, it’s his life and his passion. How many of us would be so willing to fail on such a large stage?
Let’s put the pitchforks aside this time.
Source: CBS Sports / Tebow talks about Jordan comparison, the NFL ‘rollercoaster,’ and his baseball itch