PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Mets fans can buy a few jerseys featuring names of players in the team’s instructional league.
Cespedes jerseys, they’re big sellers.
Cone jerseys, available as throwbacks.
Of course, those are for Yoenis Cespedes and David Cone, and not the instructional leaguers — Ricardo Cespedes and Gene Cone. No, the only of the 58 players getting a spotlight in this camp with the Mets is Tim Tebow, the quarterback-turned-baseball-hopeful whose No. 15 jersey is already a hot seller even though he has yet to take one professional at-bat.
The Mets are cashing in already, and Tebow has a book coming out next month. Yet both the team and its new star-of-sorts insist this is no publicity stunt, even though the odds seem stacked very high against a 29-year-old former football player finding his way to the major leagues.
“The good thing is that I don’t have to say anything,” Tebow said when asked what he would say to those who think it is a stunt. “I don’t.”
Day 2 of the Tebow experiment with the Mets comes Tuesday, when he returns to the minor league complex in Port St. Lucie for more running, throwing, catching and hitting.
Mets manager Terry Collins said the debut workout was well-received.
“I heard about it,” Collins said Monday in New York. “I called down. I called down. I wanted to wait ’til the crowd had finally left before I called. But they said it was pretty interesting. He said he was in tremendous shape.”
Tebow seemed to take the first workout very seriously. He was still mopping sweat off his brow with an orange towel more than a half-hour after leaving the field, acknowledged he still has a lot to learn and said he was hoping teammates would be comfortable having him around.
He was again playing the game he loved as a kid. Except back then, money wasn’t an issue. It is this time, as is almost always the case in pro sports.
Tebow signed a deal with the Mets that included a $100,000 signing bonus. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson defended it earlier this month, saying before a game in Atlanta the team wouldn’t spend that kind of money “so we can sell a couple hundred dollars’ worth of T-shirts in Kingsport,” referring to the Tennessee city where New York has a rookie league team.
But merchandise isn’t just on sale in Kingsport — it’s everywhere. The Mets’ web site listed the $119.99 jerseys and $29.99 T-shirts as top sellers Monday, and some of the hundreds of fans who turned out on a steamy day on Florida’s Treasure Coast were asking where they could get their own items with Tebow’s name and number on the back.
“I heard that was something that they might be selling. What do I think about it? It’s cool,” Tebow said.
Tebow has a book coming out next month called “Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms.” He doesn’t need baseball as a platform; he’s an analyst for the SEC Network and his fans are devout, whether he’s on TV or not.
But he did spend time Monday answering questions about the book, talking about how his playing days under Bill Belichick for the New England Patriots ended in 2013.
“The whole first chapter is about the last two days with the New England Patriots and getting cut from them and what it’s like and that meeting, walking into coach Belichick’s office and being told that you’re not enough,” Tebow said. “And so the goal with this and why it’s title is ‘Shaken’ is every single person in this room and every single person probably in life goes through times when they get told they’re not enough.”
For Tebow, having a chance to play is enough.
He looks at baseball as a way to tell his story a new way. A few weeks ago he was in his native Philippines, saying he hiked into remote areas and helped care for children who faced serious medical problems.
“I’m always grateful for that platform to make a change in someone’s life,” Tebow said. “Hopefully for the better.”
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.