Tebow’s promotion to St. Lucie could be a summer happening

Tim Tebow isn’t exactly killing it in the South Atlantic League but he might be almost due for a promotion anyway.

Does it matter when and where that happens? Well, of course it does, whether you believe in the potential of the former Heisman Trophy winner’s baseball career or not.

 

Tim Tebow signs autographs with fans before the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox spring training game at First Data Field in Pt. St. Lucie on March 8, 2017. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

The New York Post reported a month ago, with information provided by a source within the New York Mets organization, that Tebow could join the St. Lucie Mets by midseason.

Interpret that any way you want. The halfway point of the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies season is already here, for instance, and Tebow, batting .224 with 66 strikeouts in 201 at-bats, is not getting any younger. As for whatever constitutes the midseason at the major-league level, the All-Star Game comes to Marlins Park on July 11.

The promotion from low Class-A competition to what is considered High A could come at any time, in other words, if it is coming at all. I believe we will see Tebow in Port St. Lucie this summer for a couple of reasons.

First, the Mets need to find out if a player nearing his 30th birthday has any hope of being a September call-up to the major-league team some day, for promotional purposes at least.

Second, Tebow has been a sensational draw for the Fireflies at home and for their opponents on the road. He’s been playing in SEC country, which helps, but a relocation to the Florida State League would ring the bell even louder for Florida Gators fans in particular.

How many extra people would come to a St. Lucie Mets game in the middle of a South Florida summer if Tebow were in uniform? Well, we certainly wouldn’t be talking sellouts, but there would have to be a significant improvement over the following numbers.

The St. Lucie Mets are averaging 1,727 fans per home game at First Data Field. That’s fifth-best in the league and more than 5,000 below capacity.

Put him on a bus and every Florida State League team will be planning promotions around Tebow. Think of the Jupiter Hammerheads, averaging 883 customers per home game, and the Palm Beach Cardinals, averaging 717, or the Dunedin Blue Jays, who are dragging bottom at 540.

The Mets were selling Tebow uniform tops on his first day of Instructional League workouts at Port St. Lucie last September, and he did his usual duty signing autographs and making friends. This is not a small matter for minor-league baseball operators.

[Themodynamics of NHL life: Players on ice and coaches on hot seats]

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Columbia is a close second in its league this season with an average attendance of 5,210 and a rollicking run on Tebow memorabilia. Last year the team’s average attendance was 3,785.

Last weekend in Charleston the Riverdogs, a Yankees farm club, paid plenty of attention to Tebow by mocking him on the stadium’s video board. Images of him crying on the Gator sidelines near the end of an SEC Championship game loss to Alabama got lots of play. When Tebow’s teammates were at the plate, their names and stats were shown on the board with an additional notation in large letters – “NOT TIM TEBOW.”

Was the promotional staff angry to have Tebow in Charleston or something?

Certainly not. Charleston sold out its stadium for all three of the weekend games featuring Tebow. Crowds ranged between 6,557 and 7,331 for a franchise with an average home attendance of 4,311.

This is how it works. Tebow sells, which would be good for the St. Lucie Mets or any other team that gets him.

If it’s not them, the Class AA team in the Mets’ system are his next possible landing spot. They are the Binghamton Rumble Ponies of the Eastern League, and their opponents include the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Akron RubberDucks and the Hartford Yard Goats.

This is the minor league game and make no mistake. Tebow is a major player in it.