Rick Cleveland

Is Tim Tebow the version 2.0 of Michael Jordan — the baseball player?

Former NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow throws a ball for baseball scouts and the media during a showcase on the campus of the University of Southern California, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016 in Los Angeles. The Heisman Trophy winner works out for a big gathering of scouts on USC's campus in an attempt to start a career in a sport he hasn't played regularly since high school.
Former NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow throws a ball for baseball scouts and the media during a showcase on the campus of the University of Southern California, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016 in Los Angeles. The Heisman Trophy winner works out for a big gathering of scouts on USC's campus in an attempt to start a career in a sport he hasn't played regularly since high school. AP

Tim Tebow, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback-turned NFL washout-turned football TV analyst, now wants to become a Major League baseball player.

Good luck with that.

Tebow is 29 years old and hasn't played baseball since he was a high school junior.

This probably won't go well.

Granted, Tebow is an elite athlete, amazingly strong and fast. From all accounts, he has a work ethic second to none. But people said much the same about Michael Jordan when he decided he wanted to become a professional baseball player at age 31.

Remember?

The White Sox signed him and quickly promoted him to Double-A Birmingham. I remember going to Hoover to watch him play in 1994 — and feeling sorry for him. It takes a lot to make someone feel sorry for the world's most successful and richest athlete. In the field, MJ misplayed a fly ball. At the plate, his swing was long and slow. He often swung where the ball wasn't. He looked out of place. He was.

And he was soon back on a basketball floor where he belonged.

No easy task

Jordan was trying to do what Tebow wants to do now, which is become a corner outfielder in the Major Leagues. To do that, he will have to show he can hit Big League pitching. There is no harder task in sports.

Consider that a fastball thrown at 95 mph reaches home plate in about four-tenths of a second. That's about two voluntary blinks of an eye. In that time, a batter must recognize the pitch, determine precisely where it's coming and then swing a bat and connect with the ball at precisely the right spot and time. Remember, two blinks of an eye.

And keep in mind, that fastball might not be a fastball. It might be a curve, a slider, a change up or a cutter. Hitting the ball solidly would be hard enough if it came in a straight line, but the damned thing moves. Major League pitchers change their speeds and locations.

Hitting Major League pitching not only requires uncommon physical skills and vision but also years and years of practice and repetition. You don't take 12 years off and then learn to hit Clayton Kershaw. It just doesn't work like that.

Tebow in Pearl?

Now comes the news that after Tebow's tryout last week, the Atlanta Braves were among one of the few teams interested in his services. And that means that Tebow conceivably could be in Pearl next summer at Trustmark Park trying to hone his hitting skills.

He'll be 30 then. The Braves or whoever signs him can't afford to bring him along slowly. He will get baseball's version of being thrown to the wolves. Surely, he would sell some tickets in the process.

The A-Braves own their Minor League teams and all are located in SEC country. They know Tebow will be a drawing card at the gate — to a point, that is. It's no fun to go watch anybody strikeout, no matter how great a football or basketball player he once was.

Tim Tebow is a nice guy. He was charming, as polite and down-to-earth as could be this past spring when he came to speak at The Clarion-Ledger's highly successful Best of MS Preps banquet. I wish him well. I just believe he would have a much better chance of becoming an NFL tight end or H-back than he has of becoming a Major League slugger.

That's not the point, Tebow would tell us. He doesn't want to play tight end. He wants to play baseball.

After his tryout, he told reporters: “Regardless of if you fail, or if you fall on your face, if that's the worst thing that can happen, that's OK. When did that become such a bad thing? When did pursuing what you love become a bad thing, regardless of the result?”

If that's how he really feels, he should go for it. Where hitting Major League pitching is concerned, he will have plenty of company in his failure.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

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