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Same number, new sport: Tebow works out at Mets camp

Associated Press Associated Press 20/09/2016 By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Sports Writer
FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2016, file photo, former NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow throws a ball for baseball scouts and the media during a showcase on the campus of the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback got to the New York Mets' complex early Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, with his first workout as part of their instructional league team to begin later in the morning. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2016, file photo, former NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow throws a ball for baseball scouts and the media during a showcase on the campus of the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback got to the New York Mets' complex early Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, with his first workout as part of their instructional league team to begin later in the morning. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida — Tim Tebow has arrived to begin his baseball career.

The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback got to the New York Mets' complex early Monday, and his first workout as part of their instructional league team began later in the morning.

He was given jersey No. 15, the same number he wore as a quarterback as a national-championship-winning phenomenon in college at Florida — where he also donned blue and orange, the same color scheme as the Mets — and as a much-maligned one in the NFL with Denver and the New York Jets.

He showed some power, hitting three balls in batting practice off the chain-link fence in right-center — better than just about everyone else did. He showed some rust, popping up a half-dozen pitches in that same BP session. And he showed a need for work, after one of his throws sailed well over someone's head and nearly onto an adjacent field during a simple game of catch.

"It was a lot of fun," Tebow said. "It was great. It was great to be on a team. It was great to just go through a warmup and go through drills, just have fun, take (batting practice), get to know all the guys, try to remember as many names as possible."

Predictably, it was also a circus atmosphere.

Hundreds of fans — many wearing Tebow jerseys, some even wearing now-on-sale Mets shirts with Tebow's name — showed up; a worker at the Mets' complex said instructional league workouts last year drew maybe a couple dozen people, tops. A news helicopter circled over the field where Tebow worked for more than an hour. He got a huge cheer from fans for executing his first official drill, one where he learned how to take a lead off first base.

Tebow is one of 58 players on the Mets' instructional league roster, and at 29 he's also four years older than any other invitee. Two of the players on the roster won't even turn 18 until next year.

Tebow's last time playing true organized baseball was in his junior year of high school, when he batted nearly .500 for Nease High near Jacksonville, Florida. He worked out for scouts in Los Angeles last month and not long afterward the Mets signed him to a deal that included a $100,000 bonus.

"A lot of people would say, 'Well, it puts a chip on your shoulder,'" Tebow said. "I mean, I guess I have a little chip. You want to prove people right. Not really the naysayers, it's more that I want to prove the coaches right, the Mets organization, my teammates, play with my teammates and try to be the best baseball player I can — more importantly, the best person I can."

Tebow last appeared in an NFL regular-season game during the 2012 season. He was in camp with the New England Patriots in 2013 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015. He started workouts with the thought of seriously trying baseball a few months ago.

The Mets say Tebow will be part of daily workouts through Thursday. He'll be excused Friday and Saturday for his college football analyst duties with the SEC Network, and the instructional roster has a day off Sunday.

"The goal would be to have a career in the big leagues," Tebow said at his workout last month. "I just want to be someone to pursue what I believe in, what I'm passionate about. A lot of people will say, 'But what if you fail? What if you don't make it?' Guess what? I don't have to live with regret."

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