By Rick Pedone
After dedicating a large chunk of the sports section to all things Tim Tebow last week I kind of shrugged when someone at Osceola Stadium asked me if I thought I had put enough “Tebow” in the paper.
Based on the response he got from local fans, the answer is: apparently not.
There must be a saturation point where, theoretically, where we tire of hearing about the former Gator Heisman Trophy winner turned pro quarterback turned minor league outfielder.
I’m not sure where that saturation point is, but based on the turnout over the weekend, we haven’t come close.
Just over 18,000 fans bought tickets for the four-game series between Tebow’s St. Lucie Mets and the Florida Fire Frogs last weekend.
The Fire Frogs will be challenged to attract 18,000 fans over their remaining 17 home games.
Here’s the thing about Tebow: Most who follow him aren’t baseball fans, or football fans. They are TEBOW fans.
People who couldn’t tell you how many positions there are on a baseball diamond went to Osceola Stadium last weekend to watch one of their favorite people try to accomplish the baseball miracle of reaching the Major Leagues.
At age 29, with not even one full season of pro baseball experience, Tebow probably is more likely to win the lotto than enjoy a lengthy Major League career. But thousands upon thousands are fascinated by his journey. They want to see him cash in that lotto ticket.
Because people love this guy.
And you know what? Why not?
For all the criticism and derision the man received through the course of his pro football career, when all he did was to lead Denver to the 2011 playoffs during his only season as the team’s starting quarterback, Tebow seems as genuine and unaffected as a young, talented and famous multi-millionaire can possibly be.
Everywhere he goes, Tebow is literally stalked by the media and fans.
Before Tebow arrived Friday, I can tell you the last time five TV stations and several newspapers arrived four hours before the first pitch of a minor league baseball game in Kissimmee: never.
And that counts the 17 seasons that the Osceola Astros/Kissimmee Cobras were here from 1985-2000.
Yet, Tebow handles the adulation effortlessly; in fact, he seems to embrace it.
Despite arriving late to the stadium and in a rush to dress for Friday’s game, he looked genuinely happy while talking to the media from the Mets dugout, joking with those he knew and politely answering all questions before he was hustled to the clubhouse, pausing to sign a couple of autographs along the way. When asked about the anticipated big turnout from UF alumni, he was glowing.
“It’s great, I love it,” he said. “Seeing the Florida fans out there, I always look forward to that. That’s always nice.”
He may never top his college football career – when you win the Heisman and two national championships, that’s a pretty high bar – but Tebow’s determination, work ethic, honesty and grit is the stuff that inspires.
You can never have enough good guys out there serving as role models for the kids.
Tim Tebow is one of the best.
And I still can’t figure out what the heck was going on in the minds of the St. Lucie brain trust Saturday when, with 5,500 fans in the stands, the Mets picked that night to give Tebow a rest.
What the heck?
Sure, St. Lucie management isn’t going to sit Tebow during one of its own home games. You can’t blame them for that. Gotta feed the home fires first, right?
But, what truly is puzzling was that the Mets wouldn’t put Tebow in even though the game lasted 15 innings.
Fifteen friggin’ innings! Darn near five hours.
You mean you can’t put the guy up there one time to pinch-hit – pinch run? – to give the fans, some who drove an hour or more to see him, a little satisfaction?
The Mets are lucky things didn’t get ugly.
It was Star Wars Night. There were Storm Troopers in the building.
There was some well-deserved good news for local high school coaches recently when School District Superintendent Debra Pace announced that all head coaches and their assistants who guided teams to the FHSAA playoffs last school year would receive bonuses.
Ryan Adams, the school district’s athletics coordinator, said that the bonuses ranged from $150 for some assistants to $500 for Osceola High boys basketball Coach Nate Alexander, who won the Class 9A state championship.
Other head coaches who got to the playoffs received $250, Adams said.
“I thought it was a great gesture and we’re appreciative of the support,” he said. “Superintendent Pace is a big advocate of athletics. We also have a very supportive group of principals in the county and I’m very excited about the level of enthusiasm they have shown for our sports programs.”
Just over 200 coaches received bonuses totaling about $45,000. The bonuses are an ongoing supplement from the School District’s general fund, said a spokesperson. The bonuses are in addition to the standard supplements that all of the coaches receive.
Adams said that most coaches work year around for their programs, and the show of support from the School District is a morale booster.
Of course, with most coaching supplements averaging pennies per hour, high school coaching never will be a profession for those who seek riches.
Instead, the coaches take their rewards from the successes of the young men and women they mold and motivate.
That, as the credit card commercial says, is priceless.