I heard last week, just like the rest of the sports world, about Tim Tebow’s desire to play in Major League Baseball. And when I heard the familiar name of my friend and former big leaguer Chad Moeller, I immediately texted him and offered my services to him as a pitcher. Thankfully, I wasn’t ignored, even though Chad was getting calls from anybody and everybody wanting a piece of Tim, and we scheduled a time for me to come out and face Tebow.
I had recently stopped throwing to begin my offseason training and prepare for the 2017 season, but now I had to ramp it back up. Luckily, I hadn’t taken too much time off throwing, and I was able to get back into the swing of things pretty quickly. I took a week to get ready, and after the first couple days, my body wasn’t enjoying the increasingly heavy lifting with this extra throwing added on.
I showed up to the field not far from my house in Arizona with really no idea what to expect. I had met Tim and his brother one time before, at the Fairmont Princess with our mutual friend, Jack Miller, and I’ve heard all the rumors about his work ethic and general hospitality. I was excited to see Tim again, but more excited to see if he can really hit a baseball.
Whether Tebow had the heart or the work ethic was never a question for me. It would be hard work for anyone to catch up to kids who have been playing this game their entire lives, but Tim’s work ethic has is well documented. For me, the question was purely about ability. I wanted to see how he reacts to inside fastballs, and whether he pulls off curveballs in the dirt — things like that. I want to see if Tim has the baseball IQ to step on a big-league field and not just be a sideshow or a “locker room guy.”
I began warming up as Tim was getting his batting practice swings in. Very quickly, I saw his raw power show. He began hitting balls out to every corner of the ballpark, and these weren’t just fly balls — they were line drives. Deep down, I never really questioned his power — I mean just look at him. He is built like a house, he’s obviously athletic, and he is really quick for his size. All of these factors add up to power. But the question is: Is it just batting-practice power or in-game power.
My throwing partner, Jon Huizinga, threw first. He was throwing sidearm and dropping some pretty filthy slider/sinker combinations on Tim. Surprisingly, Tebow did an amazing job of staying on Jon’s pitches and fighting off his best stuff.
Then it was my turn. I had been looking forward to this moment for a week, and I was as ready as I could be for it. I had gotten all warmed up and Tebow stepped into the box. The first thing I noticed was that it felt like he was right on top of the plate. He is a huge guy, and it almost looked like he was crowding the plate. Usually only little lefties who want to get on base crowd the plate, but having someone as big as Tebow that close made me take notice. By doing this, he essentially took the entire inside half of the plate from me. His stance is pretty spread out, but he uses his back leg extremely well to create power in his swing.
I faced Tim for about five different at-bats, and each time we treated it just like a game, with the catcher was calling strikes and balls. Overall, I was actually really happy with how I threw. I was sitting in the low 90s and attacking the zone with all my pitches.
Watching Tim from my standpoint, I was really impressed with his approach at the plate. For not playing the game in over a decade, he had very good plate discipline and very rarely swung at pitches off the plate. He actually started working the count against me. I was expecting him to be coming out of his shoes almost every pitch, but Tim was very controlled with every swing and every at-bat. He let go only when the count allowed him to, and he stayed grounded when he was behind in the count.
One of the most impressive things I saw — and you rarely see this in “young” or “new to the game” players — is that even when Tebow swung and missed, he was right on the ball. He rarely got fooled by any pitch, and his adjustments were remarkable.
Off of me, Tim really only hit one ball hard, a 3-0 changeup he lined right back up the middle. But in every at-bat, he was putting really good swings on the ball. He’s obviously not ready to step into a big-league lineup, but he looked a lot more like a guy trying to get his timing back the first week of spring training than a player who hasn’t played the game since high school a dozen years ago.
I did witness something incredible. Off of a lefty who was touching 90, Tim used what we call a bomb bat (composite bats that don’t break but don’t have any pop) and hit a ball off the right-field wall. And watching him against lefties, you could tell he has been coached correctly. Tim never let his front side leak — he stayed in tight and forced the lefties to pitch to him. Even after several balls came within inches of hitting him, he stayed right on the next pitch away and hit it in the gap. You rarely see that, even in the big leagues — there is a reason we pitch “hard in, soft away,” but Tim didn’t fall for it.
In my opinion, having seen Tebow up close and personal, he isn’t far off from being extremely competitive at a high level. Without a doubt, he is very raw and definitely needs to play games and face pitchers. If I were planning Tim’s future, I would try to get him into rookie ball as soon as possible, then instructional league, and then send him to Mexico or the Dominican Republic to face some real pitching before having him ready for spring training.
Tebow’s baseball IQ was quite apparent. After almost every pitch, he was speaking to Moeller about what he saw and what the pitcher was trying to do — and almost every single time, he was coming up with the correct answers on his own.
I honestly believe that Tim could have a future in this game. You have to love his heart, and his work ethic is off the chart, which is essential if he is going to be successful. He has the raw skills, he is learning at a rapid pace, and let’s be honest — he must love this game if he is willing to take a pay cut to try to make a career out of it.