The New York Mets have a financial incentive to invite NFL quarterback-turned-outfielder Tim Tebow to spring training for the fourth straight year, even if his minor league numbers have failed to impress.
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Tebow, 32, was one of eight non-roster invitees tapped to attend Mets camp, which begins next month in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Tebow hit just .163 while playing at the Triple-A level in 2019 and isn’t considered a major league prospect, but he remains a major draw at the ticket gate.
It’s difficult to isolate his exact impact, but Tebow’s presence has regularly contributed to increased attendance for the Mets’ minor league affiliates. With Tebow on the roster, the Triple-A Syracuse Mets had an 18 percent increase in average attendance in 2019 compared to the previous year.
In 2017, Tebow spent time with the Low-A Columbia Fireflies and the High-A Port St. Lucie Mets. Columbia’s average attendance jumped about 40 percent that season, and Port St. Lucie broke its season record for total home attendance, according to SNY.
"The Tebow effect" wasn’t limited to the Mets. Baseball America calculated Tebow’s presence led to an average attendance spike of 2,591 fans for road games during his stint with Columbia, boosting revenue for opposing home teams by a cumulative $1.6 million.
Tebow established close ties to the Florida area, the Mets’ spring training locale, during his football career. The southpaw won a Heisman Trophy and two national titles during his time as quarterback for the Florida Gators.
A first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Tebow failed to catch on in professional football. He last appeared in an NFL game in 2012 and joined the Mets’ minor league system in 2016.
Tebow impressed by hitting .273 with six home runs during a stint with the Double-A Binghamton Mets in 2018. However, he struggled to adapt to Triple-A pitching and battled injuries last season.
The Mets’ first spring training game of 2020 is scheduled for Feb. 22.