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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — New York Mets second baseman Neil Walker has played in 949 major league games.
Wednesday was the first time he ever had a Heisman Trophy winner on his side as Tim Tebow made his spring training debut for the Mets.
"I’ve had a few Heisman winners [visit] the locker room, but never somebody of his stature in the same lineup," Walker said before the Mets beat the Boston Red Sox 8-7 in a split-squad game at First Data Field.
For Walker and the rest of the Mets, Tebow’s presence in Wednesday’s lineup was barely noticeable. Batting eighth as the designated hitter, he was a distraction to no one. "If he came in here looking for publicity, he’s certainly not doing that. He’s in here to work. He’s in here to take his at-bats," Walker said.
From the looks of Wednesday’s performance, Tebow is going to need a lot more work. In a game as ugly in person as it was portrayed on social media , the former quarterback went 0-for-3, fanning twice on called third strikes and hitting into a double play with the bases loaded. (Though the DP did bring in a run to tie the game at 4-4 and generated an ovation from the crowd of 6,538.)
Yes, there were some embarrassing moments, such as when Tebow wandered toward the Red Sox side of the field when he approached the on-deck circle before his first at-bat.
"I thought that was the ball boy," Boston starting pitcher Rick Porcello said.
But overall, the sentiment in the stands was positive.
"It’s nice having Tebow here," one Mets fan said while leaving via the stadium’s lone elevator.
In a fitting reminder of the many dings any athlete must endure, Tebow was also plunked by fellow former Florida Gator Brian Johnson before getting doubled-off on a line drive.
"Where is the love?" Tebow joked after the game.
"I’ve been good at taking hits my whole career. That comes easier than everything else," Tebow said.Indeed, after a near-pristine college career, the literal and figurative hits have come fast and furious at Tebow since.His bumpy NFL career was highlighted by a playoff win with Denver over Pittsburgh during the 2011 season. After subsequent tries with New England, Philadelphia and the Jets, he ran out of NFL invitations. The past few months have seen him try his hand at baseball, a decision lampooned by many. Just last week, ESPN.com’s David Fleming wrote of Tebow’s " Relentless Pursuit of Failure. "The internet flailed away Wednesday with each whiff, misstep or uncorked swing.But is what Tebow is trying really so bad? An elite athlete who craves competition so badly he’ll take whatever criticism comes to try his hand at a game that could use a little star power? That’s a problem?That he was there at all, taking batting practice before digging in against 2016 American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, drew respect from Red Sox manager John Farrell."For a guy who played at such a high profile in […]