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Tim Tebow, three years after jumping to baseball, still learning the ropes as he climbs through minors

Tebow, in town for a series against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, is one step away from the major leagues. But he's still learning to "trust the process."

Tim Tebow is in Lehigh Valley for a Syracuse Mets road game against the Ironpigs.
Tim Tebow is in Lehigh Valley for a Syracuse Mets road game against the Ironpigs.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

ALLENTOWN — Tim Tebow uttered a phrase that 76ers fans know all too well.

“Trust the process,” Tebow said during a media availability Monday at Coca-Cola Park before his Syracuse Mets took on the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Tebow, 31, the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the University of Florida, was talking about his return to baseball in 2016, after not having played since high school. Drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos in 2010, he had an up-and-down NFL career. His last football appearance came in an Eagles uniform in 2015, when he played during the preseason but was cut by coach Chip Kelly before the regular season.

Tebow has climbed baseball’s minor league ranks since 2016, when, after signing with the Mets organization, he played in the team’s instructional league and the Arizona Fall League. The left fielder played in low-A and high-A ball in 2017, and last season made the jump to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, the Mets’ double-A affiliate, with whom he had his best season as a pro ballplayer. He hit .273 with six home runs and 36 RBIs in 84 games and was named an Eastern League All-Star.

The transition to triple-A Syracuse hasn’t gone as planned. He’s hitting just .150 in 18 games to start the season, but that’s where trusting the process comes into play.

“I think for me, it’s to improve every single day, continue to focus on the process, and make strides in every area — [on the] basepaths, outfield, and at the plate, of course,” said Tebow, who was not in the starting lineup in Monday night’s series opener against the IronPigs.

Tebow was 8-6 for the Broncos in 2010 and 2011. One of Tebow’s most iconic football memories came when he hit Demaryius Thomas in stride for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play in overtime against the Steelers in the 2012 AFC wild-card round. The Broncos got stomped on at New England the following week, 45-10.

The thrills of Sundays and the everyday grind of minor league baseball are completely different, Tebow acknowledged.

“In football, you’re preparing for 16 games,” he said. “There’s kind of that peak every week and then there’s a relaxation [period] and then there’s a peak the next week. Then in baseball, it’s different. You have to have all of that within 24 hours, sometimes less, if you’re going from a night game to a morning game.”

Now that Tebow is one step away from the big leagues, he’s not allowing himself to think about it.

“I just don’t think you want to let yourself go there," he said. "I think there’s so much work you have to put in and improve. So it’s really focusing on the day-to-day, the little adjustments, on the at-bats, on the routes in the outfield — all of those little things. I think that’s something I really learned as an athlete, is to focus on the lowest common denominator — the smallest thing and when you can really focus on that, then I think it takes away pressure, it takes away places your mind shouldn’t drift to. [Focusing on the wrong things] doesn’t help you be the best athlete and player you can be.”

The endgame for Tebow is not solely to make the major leagues, and, as he continues to trust the process, it’s not the results that drive him. It’s simply the love of the game.

“I think it’s not just about if I make the majors or don’t, I think it’s enjoying what you do, and I think that should be a goal for everyone, actually, is to love what you do,” he said. “And that’s why I started playing this in the first place, because it was something that I missed and I wanted to give it a shot.”