Just when it looked as if the whole Tim Tebow phenomenon finally petered out after a stunning college football career ebbed into a below-average NFL career, it is bubbling back up.
The Heisman Trophy winner out of the University of Florida is seeking a contract with a Major League Baseball team.
A little more than two weeks ago, he invited all 30 teams to a football-style showcase next week in Los Angeles. At the time, managers and players in the big leagues laughed off questions about it. After all, we are talking about a 29-year-old who last played competitive baseball about a decade ago as a standout junior in high school.
Now, however, at least 20 teams have replied they will attend.
So this is going to be a story.
As fantastical as it sounds, hey, this is Tebow. He is a great athlete with a historic work ethic. He is well-known for penning comeback stories on the field. And America has an insatiable appetite to devour every morsel of information about him.
When David Aardsma pitched to him at an Arizona workout last week, he said, "(Tebow) isn't far off from being extremely competitive at a high level." And after facing him Thursday, the former Seattle Mariners closer who spent nine seasons in the bigs told the New York Daily News, "He looked like a much different hitter today. ... I was really impressed."
This is a surprising development.
Tebow's bid to reach the majors does smack of an attention grab. If Tebow really wanted this, one would figure he would have played for an independent-league team this season; many others have en route to a contract with a major league organization. The showcase gets a lot more buzz.
His beacon burned bright at when he was part of two national title teams at Florida, won the Heisman after the 2007 season and ended up the Denver Broncos' first-round pick in the 2010 draft. And it somehow continued to shine through mostly disappointing years in an NFL career in which he played just 35 games. That is because he somehow broke the plane from sports star to celebrity as people got to know more about his background and devout Christianity.
His 2011 autobiography was a New York Times bestseller.
May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.— Tim Tebow (@TimTebow) August 21, 2016
2 Thessalonians 3:5
Tebow's celebrity dimmed only a bit since he became a broadcaster in 2013. He should have ceased to be a story of any kind once he was out of the game. And yet he didn't -- we in the media are partially responsible for that. We give people the news. But in this day-and-age, we also have to give the people what they want. And according to all sorts of metrics, they want Tebow.
And now they have a chance to get him back.
Baseball players being baseball players, they find something insulting about Tebow doing this. No one at the top of his or her profession likes the idea of someone just picking it up and becoming great.
"I think it's ridiculous," Philadelphia Phillies reliever David Hernandez said Thursday in Chicago to CSNPhilly.com. "Hats off to him for getting an opportunity, but I just don't think it's very plausible that he'll get anywhere. Nothing against him, but just from the standpoint that getting to the major leagues is a long grind. It's not easy. There's a lot of work that goes into it.
"It's kind of a slap in the face for him to say, 'I think I'll grab my things and go play pro baseball.' It's not that easy."
You have to know that if he does end up playing against people who have dedicated their lives to the craft of baseball, Tebow will be looking at their best -- or at least something high and tight.
But the reality is that Tebow can't be counted out. We know how athletic and determined he is. And he supposedly has some tools -- he is an outfielder who to no one's surprise has a great arm. And Aardsma described his hitting as surprisingly sophisticated. Tebow didn't get fooled by pitches, knew when to let one go by, stood in tough at inside pitches.
And it only requires one team to take a low-risk, high-reward chance to get the ball rolling.
The notion of a mediocre NFL player trying this is ridiculous, or at least should be. But this mediocre NFL player is Tim Tebow. He has a following. This is indeed going to be a story.