Tebowmania is coming to Columbia.
The former Heisman Trophy winner will begin his minor league career with the Columbia Fireflies, the Class A affiliate of the New York Mets.
“I am excited about continuing the journey. I learned so much this spring working with T.C. (Terry Collins), Kevin Long and Tom Goodwin,” Tebow told reporters Monday. “I hear so many good things about the city of Columbia. I hear the stadium is great, the people are great. I look forward to coming there to make an impact on the field and in the community.”
Columbia opens the season April 6 at home against Augusta in a four-game series. This year’s team arrives in Columbia on April 1 with a fan fest set for the following day.
Fireflies president John Katz was confident last month that Tebow would begin his career with the club and the team’s Twitter account sent out a tweet in August with Tebow in a Fireflies’ jersey when it was announced he was considering playing baseball.
“I think it is really exciting. These things don’t happen too often,” Katz said. “You don’t get athletes that have a broad appeal from so many demographics. So much about Tim Tebow is appealing to folks. You got an athlete to have success at so many different levels. For him to be able to go out and chase his dreams playing minor league baseball is amazing.”
Katz is at the Mets’ spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Florida, this week and plans to meet with Tebow. He said the Fireflies will begin to incorporate Tebow in the marketing plans .
Katz said how long Tebow’s will stay depends on how comfortable the Mets’ organization is with his progress.
The Tebow announcement is sure to spike ticket sales, which Katz said were trending upward from last year’s inaugural season. The club also will be hosting the South Atlantic League All-Star game this season. Fireflies media relations director Kevin Fitzgerald said Monday was the club’s largest day of individual ticket sales this year by a large margin and encourages fans to get their tickets soon.
Tebow will wear his No. 15 jersey he wore as quarterback at Florida and in the NFL for the Fireflies.
Tebow signed with the Mets on Sept. 8 to a mix of skepticism in the baseball industry. He hadn’t played organized baseball since his junior year of high school.
Tebow has rotated between working with the minor leaguers and Mets’ big league club this spring. He has appeared in seven spring training games for the Mets and was the starting left fielder against the Detroit Tigers on Monday.
Tebow went 0-for-3 in Monday’s game and is hitting .200 this spring.
“No one works harder than Tim did this spring,” Mets manager Terry Collins told Newsday on Monday. “He was a pleasure to have around. What he wants is to improve. I’m sure he’ll be a great influence on the kids in Columbia and the fans will enjoy watching him play.”
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told Newsday he has been impressed with Tebow’s improvement. He also squashed the notion Tebow would be taking the spot of another prospect in the organization or is being used as a publicity stunt.
“The fact that he’s starting at Columbia, he’s really not taking anybody’s spot. By the way, we have lots of players in our organization who are just that: organizational players,” Alderson said. “Not every player that we have is a top prospect, whose opportunity is being curtailed by Tim Tebow or anybody else.”