HOME

TO ADVERTISE

TO SUBSCRIBE

JOBS WITH US

  

The Tebow Touch



Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow’s promotion to the St. Lucie Mets for the second half of the Florida State League season has brought record crowds as fans show up to see if the former NFL quarterback can launch a second career in baseball.
GREG GARDNER

Minor league baseball teams benefit from player’s promotion to St. Lucie Mets

BY GREG GARDNER

Tim Tebow’s debut game as a St. Lucie Met was one for the record books without a single pitch being thrown.

The June 27 game was postponed when a violent thunderstorm with lightning and hail moved over First Data Field in Port St. Lucie, but concessions brought in more than $5,500 while more than 3,000 Tebow fans waited out the storm.

The storm was kind of an omen from above for the mania about to sweep through Florida ballparks. “It was the most insane, end of the world storm I have ever seen at the field,” said Traer Van Allen, St. Lucie Mets general manager. “We saw the wind shift the flags and we just got the tarps down in time.”

The St. Lucie Mets attendance records had been broken since Tebow joined the team for the second half of the season. The former University of Florida Gator, National Football League quarterback, devout Christian and Heisman Trophy winner draws crowds. This year the team set a single-season attendance record of 108,057 with 13 home games still to be played. If the pace continues, the Mets could top the record by as much as 20,000 spectators.

LARGE STATE TURNOUTS

Attendance records were set in Fort Myers, Port Charlotte and Kissimmee when Tebow was in the lineup as an outfielder or as a designated hitter.

“Tim Tebow has brought an excitement to the entire state of Florida, the Florida State League and it is unprecedented,” said Jared Forma, general manager of the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs. “We set a single-game record of 7,515 fans and it all had to do with Tim Tebow. I have never seen a player with this kind of reaction. The interest in Tim Tebow is unmatched to anything I have seen. He is a lightning rod in a very positive way and they come out in droves to see him. He couldn’t have treated our fans any better. He really cares about the people he comes in contact with.”

Forma said the Stone Crabs’ attendance for a four-day homestand with the Mets was four times what the team would normally expect. “The ticket phones were off the hook with the increased buzz. It is great for the whole league,” he said.

“It has been fabulous and it was like receiving a marketing grant,” said Ben Hemmen, executive vice president of the Fort Myers Miracle. “It is the Tebow effect and I am smiling from ear to ear. It is an anomaly in our business, the excitement he brings. Tim Tebow brought new people to the ballpark. He just put us over the top. It’s been fabulous. We hope he goes on and has a great career.”

ATTENDANCE RECORDS SET

When the Mets and Tebow set out on their first road trip on the first weekend in July, the Miracle set an attendance record with 9,478 fans.

The first-year Kissimmee Fire Frogs, an Atlanta Braves affiliate, were averaging about 1,000 fans a night until Tebow and the St. Lucie Mets showed up. The four games brought in 17,000 fans including the largest crowd on Saturday night. Disappointed that Tebow was not in the lineup, the crowd ended the game chanting, “Tebow, Tebow.” Before and after all four games, the ever gracious 30-year-old superstar signed autographs.

“It was a fun experience and it was new for us,” said Joe Harrington, president of the Fire Frogs. “The journey he is on has fascinated people. They have followed him through his college career and on to the NFL.” Harrington said Tebow caught a fly ball to end one of the games and threw the ball to a particular fan. When someone else snatched it away, Tebow went to the dugout, autographed a ball and brought it back to the fan. He then signed autographs for a while before moving to the first-base side of the field to sign some more. “It speaks volumes and it shows what kind of person he is. I am hoping for the best for him,” Harrington said.

During a four-game series at the Jupiter Cardinals, 8,500 people showed up to see Tebow and the Mets. Normally, less than 3,000 fans would have been in attendance for those four games. “He brought out really large crowds and lots of Gator fans,” said Mike Bauer, the Cardinals general manager. “He is a really positive figure trying to realize his dream and I hope he is successful.”

JUMP IN EMPLOYMENT

Marc Ashe, who has owned Lerro’s Gourmet Italian Ice and several other concessions at the Mets Stadium for nearly 25 years, has never seen anything like the Tim Tebow phenomenon.

“It has been very good for us and I have hired more personnel, young people,” said Ashe, president of Concession Depot LLC in Port St. Lucie. “It has been a blessing in disguise. He is definitely a draw, his personality, what he stands for. He is a role model for many young people. For us it is a win-win situation since he has put people to work.”

“I think Tim Tebow is exciting to watch and he’s bringing the love of the game back to the game,” said Rick Hatcher, executive director of the Treasure Coast Sports Commission. “He has impacted the attendance for the St. Lucie Mets and the other teams in the Florida State League. Everyone applauds his efforts and he is a great role model. Look at the number of autographs he signs for kids rather than adults. Tim Tebow is great for Port St. Lucie and the Treasure Coast. The added exposure from the media is always good.”

Marty Smith’s America filmed an episode for ESPN2 with Tebow at his rented PGA Village home in Port St. Lucie. It was light banter with an appearance by next door neighbor and New York Met David Wright. A Nissan commercial aired on local TV with Tebow dodging football mascots who purposely got in his way while he is driving.

MESSAGE OF FAITH

At Faith Night on July 28, Tebow spoke after the game for five minutes to most of the 4,654 in attendance who stayed to hear his message.

“Before I close, know this, God loves you. You matter and he has a plan for your life. Thank you so much for having me. God bless you all,” he was quoted as saying over the roar of the crowd.

St. Lucie County has been using social media marketing to get the word out in the slow season that there are plenty of hotel rooms available for visitors who want to come and see Tebow and the St. Lucie Mets.

“We are marketing Tim Tebow for University of Florida fans,” said Charlotte Bireley, director of tourism and marketing for St. Lucie County. “We can’t put a price tag on the media coverage during the low season when it is needed the most. We are telling people they can come here, get great hotel rates and see Tim Tebow play baseball.”

As of Aug. 22, Tebow had played in 52 games for the St. Lucie Mets, batting .220 with five home runs, six doubles, one triple and 27 runs batted in. He was walked 15 times and charged with two errors as a leftfielder.

“Tim Tebow is just one of the guys, but he brings a positive attitude to the team,” general manager Van Allen said. “He is a physical specimen who works hard and always has a smile on his face and always looks like he is having fun.

“He has created a buzz at the ballpark. You see it in the fans, people traveling various distances to come to games. It is unlike anything I have ever seen in my 17 years here, the following that Tim has. Even if you are not a Gator fan, it is hard not to root for him. That positive energy is contagious. Years from now we will look back on this season and realize how special it was,” he said.