‘Bigger than just the sport’: Tebow Mania hits Charleston when Fireflies visit RiverDogs

Tim Tebow speaks to reporters before a game this season. Tebow and the Columbia Fireflies play the Charleston RiverDogs at Riley Park on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (Gene Sapakoff/Staff) Tebow Mania, like a firefly in a jar, shines bright and probably briefly.

Business model: Immensely charismatic 29-year-old former quarterback who played on two national championship teams at Florida, won the Heisman Trophy and starred in one astonishing NFL season with the Denver Broncos tries baseball.

Result: Turnstiles spinning throughout the Class A South Atlantic League.

Tim Tebow visits Charleston with his Columbia Fireflies teammates for the first time this season for games Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Riley Park.

The biggest national story of the 2017 minor league season by the numbers:

• .226 – Tebow’s batting average (three home runs). Not great, but a promotion to the high-level Class A Florida State League is possible when the first half of the SAL season ends Sunday.

“That’s not something I’m concerned about,” Tebow said last week. “I just want to get better each game.”

• 16,305 – Tickets sold for the RiverDogs’ three games vs. Columbia before the first pitch, the first time a Charleston team has sold out a series in advance (not counting standing room-only tickets).

• $44,200 – Baseball America’s estimate of Tebow’s economic impact per game during the South Atlantic League season (based on an average increase of 2,210 more fans per game and an estimate that each fan spends an average of $20 on tickets, concessions and souvenirs).

“That’s not necessarily a goal or something I’m trying to do,” Tebow said of the hoopla. “For me it’s just coming out here and trying to enjoy the game of baseball. But what I’ve always tried to do in sports is be bigger than just that sport. If all I did in football was win or lose games or throw touchdowns and interceptions, at the end of the day it’s just a game. But if you can use the platform to try to help people and bring smiles to faces, that’s what I tried to do in football and that’s what Im going to try to do in this game as well.”

• 6 – Different teams represented among Tebow jerseys spotted most often at Fireflies games this season: Florida Gators, Denver Broncos, New York Jets, New England Patriots, Mets and Fireflies. Tim Tebow jersey T-shirts are popular items in the Fireflies team store. (David Caraviello/Staff) • 6-3, 255 – Tebow’s height and weight, which combines for power potential that intrigues the New York Mets, the Fireflies’ parent club.

Tebow’s goals?

“When I get hold of a pitch, try to do damage,” Tebow said. “To try to be gap-to-gap and just continue to try and improve in every area of the game – in the field, baserunning, the little things.” • 21.5 – Average age of South Atlantic League players. • 2 – Wristbands Tebow is wearing. One represents the “Night to Shine” event that is a big part of […]