The Tim Tebow show comes to Lexington this week.
And while the former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time college football national champion with the Florida Gators hasn’t lit up the South Atlantic League with his baseball statistics for the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies, he continues to draw a lot of attention.
The Fireflies play a four-game series against the Lexington Legends beginning Thursday and tickets remain available.
“The notoriety Tebow is bringing to Minor League Baseball and the South Atlantic League is unparalleled. This is quite reminiscent of when Roger Clemens had his rehab assignment in Lexington with the Astros back in June of 2006,” Legends president and CEO Andy Shea said in a news release Tuesday. “It’s something sports fans of all ages can appreciate and want to be a part of.”
The Legends have been averaging 3,872 fans per game this season. They expect well over 6,000 Thursday and Friday and a potential sellout of more than 8,400 on Saturday, according to ticket sales manager Kyle Hargrove. When it was announced Tebow would be assigned to the South Atlantic League, the Legends were quick to offer a “Ten Tebow” ticket package for all of the Fireflies dates in Lexington. Tebow has been rested for five games this season, about average on his team, and the team has had some rainouts this week, so odds are good he might play each day in Lexington. However much he plays, he’s certain to be a draw.
Columbia leads the league in attendance, averaging 5,370 fans per game, about 1,500 more than the South Carolina club averaged last season. Moreover, wherever Tebow and the Fireflies go, the host team sees a boost in attendance of about 1,900 fans per game.
When the Fireflies, a New York Mets affiliate, played in Lakeland, N.J., just an hour south of New York this month, the Blue Claws’ attendance jumped more than 3,800 over their average in two of their three games.
Baseball America estimated Tebow is worth an extra $44,200 per night at the gate and concessions to host teams.
Clearly the “Tim Tebow Effect” goes beyond the outfielder’s .230 batting average, three home runs and 14 RBI in 35 games. He’s also struck out 37 times.
The former quarterback’s fame owes to his exceptional college football career, his reputation as a leader and the status it helped give him as a celebrity athlete and Christian role model. The notoriety has endured despite washing out of the NFL after just three seasons.
He also spoke to why he’s pursuing baseball despite the struggles and the criticism.
“I enjoy what I do every day,” Tebow told Fallon. “I think it’s so important to actually love what you do. For me, going into this pursuit, there was so much criticism, and why? I just wanna do something that I wanna have fun every single day and do something that I live and not let the fear of the unknown cripple me by not being able to pursue what I love.”
And Tebow, 29, talked about the less-than glamorous life of minor league baseball, which includes 12-hour bus trips.
“I’m obviously doing it for the money. I think I get like $1,200 a month,” he joked. “No, I love it. My first love was playing baseball when I was 4 years old. We moved back from the Philippines, my parents signed me up for baseball at Normandy Baseball Park. I had (number) 35, just like Frank Thomas, and I fell in love with it.”
Columbia Fireflies at Lexington Legends
When: 7:05 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 6:35 p.m. Saturday; 2:05 p.m. Sunday