Why I’m on Team Tebow

Aside from being a time to reunite with teammates and soak in beautiful weather, Spring Training is an opportunity for MLB players to warm up for an arduous 162-game season. Reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello is no exception, and the right-handed ace for the Boston Red Sox made a typical tune-up start last week against the New York Mets. Down 1-0 heading into the bottom of the third, Porcello trotted out to face the bottom third of the Mets lineup. Business as usual.

Only it wasn’t. Leading off for the Mets was 29 year-old Tim Tebow, the beloved, maligned and controversial quarterback-turned-outfielder, whose road to Spring Training hasn’t been that of the average prospect.

Tebow saw four fastballs before heading back to the bench on a looking strikeout. His day ended with an 0-for-3 showing, including one more strikeout and a baserunning mistake.

Cue the Twitter haters.

“Welcome to the big leagues Tim Tebow. Enjoy your 15-minute stay.”

“This is actually hilarious…”

“*Crosses baseball off list of things Tim Tebow can do well.*”

It’s easy to publicly mock a guy like Tebow, who played his way off of NFL rosters because of his awkward throwing motion and unflappable desire to become a franchise quarterback rather than switch to a position he might have better success in. Many argue that his minor league contract with the Mets is just a stunt to reignite the “Tebow Mania” that wrecked havoc during his turbulent time as a Denver Bronco. Others say that Tebow is a giant distraction for the Mets organization, which shouldn’t have offered him a contract in the first place.

Get this: Tebow doesn’t care. One of the things that I love about Tim Tebow is his lack of fear. In reading parts of Tebow’s novels “Through My Eyes and Shaken,” I have never seen anyone that embodies a lack of fear like Tebow. A career as a professional athlete may not be his destiny for much longer, but at the end of the day, maybe he doesn’t need sports as much as sports needs him.

Forget a lucrative contract in the millions. Tebow has gained a platform to share his amazing contributions to society, most notably the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine. The event, a prom night for children with special needs, provides teenagers with their own shining moment, one that many believe wouldn’t be possible without Tebow’s popularity, graciousness and compassion for helping others.

Sports have the power to bring about magical moments, ranging from a military father reuniting with his children at a basketball game to a high school team’s manager with Down Syndrome scoring a bucket on Senior Night. When these heartfelt moments happen — occurrences that even non-sports fans can smile about — Sportscenter shares them, with the title “Why We Love Sports Today:” followed by a short description of what happened.

Tebow has been featured on these posts many times. The exact number of times is high but still can’t do justice to the type of person he is, made possible by his presence as a hardworking athlete in not one, but two sports. Whether he succeeds or not in his playing career is meaningless compared to the ways that he is contributing to the world and promoting what it means to be a role model — star athlete or not. Even his haters should have to appreciate that. They don’t, but they should.

The next time you want to critique Tim Tebow, remember this: Boo the player, but cheer the man. Regardless of how many more chances he’ll get, Tebow is utilizing sports as his surface to help others, not just himself. His purpose in life goes way beyond his performance on the field, and he is an ambassador of what it means to not only be a harder worker, but more importantly, a great human being.

That’s why I’m on Team Tebow.

Josh Yuen covers softball. Contact him at [email protected].