SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Tim Tebow has no illusions about starting his baseball career in the big leagues, according to the long-time major league catcher training him.
But Chad Moeller doesn’t believe Tebow – the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who hasn’t played in a regular-season NFL game since 2012 – is looking at a five-year stint toiling in the minors either.
Sitting Wednesday morning in an office near the batting cages where he has been working with Tebow since late May, Moeller pointed to a statement from former slugger Gary Sheffield, who suggested after the plans went public Tuesday that Tebow could be in the majors in 1½ years despite not playing baseball since his junior year of high school.
“That’s still two years of minor league baseball,” Moeller told USA TODAY Sports. “That’s buses, or really bad flights, and not making close to what he’s making probably taking much better flights talking to people or doing TV or whatever. It’s a big, big difference. And so he knows those things.
“This is open and out front. Now, do I think a team is going to send him to rookie ball? No. You’re taking a 28-year-old. You know what you’re getting. It’s either going to work or it’s not, and it’s going to have to be fast-tracked.”
With no NFL options, Tebow is planning to hold a workout for MLB scouts – near the end of this month, Moeller said, though no date has been set – in hopes of getting a chance at what can safely be called an extreme long shot at a pro baseball career.
And unlike in football, where Tebow has refused to change positions or follow the advice of Chip Kelly and others by going to the CFL to get reps, Moeller said Tebow is prepared to do what it takes to make baseball work – provided Tebow feels he’s getting a legitimate chance.
Moeller’s suggestion to MLB teams: sign Tebow and send him to the Arizona Fall League, where he’d get tested immediately against “plus” arms in a relatively controlled environment.
“Do I think (teams are) selfishly going to want to sell some seats? Yeah. And he knows it,” Moeller said. “And that’s why he really hopes (and) wants a team that thinks he can do this, and not just, ‘We’re going to send him to every level and sell a whole bunch of seats and sell a whole bunch of merchandise and we’re just going to have a sideshow.’
“He knows he’s partially a sideshow to start with. But he does want a team that actually thinks this is for real and thinks this is someone that can help us. And he’s going to have to go out and perform and show he can do this. There’s no way to simulate that.”
Connected through a mutual acquaintance who now works at Tebow’s agency, CAA, Moeller said he’s doing what he can by lining up out-of-work and retired big-league pitchers to throw to Tebow, whose natural ability has shone through. “He doesn’t have all these other thoughts in his head,” Moeller said. “He just does what I ask. It’s kind of a machine.”
Outside of one video tweeted by Moeller on Tuesday, those workouts have been out of the public eye. Moeller wouldn’t reveal where Tebow was working out Wednesday nor the extent of interest from MLB teams in light of Tuesday’s news release via ESPN, which employs him as a college football analyst. But Moeller said if he didn’t think Tebow could play, he wouldn’t put his reputation on the line by getting involved.
The fact remains Tebow has dedicated his adult life to playing quarterback, but can’t find a job in a league starved for QBs after getting cut by the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles at the end of training camp in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Now he’s trying to make up for a lot of lost time in baseball, which he last played competitively in 2004.
“There’s no question it comes down to his faith, where he draws from, that confidence and that strength,” Moeller said. “He’s very open about the fact that if he’d gone back for his senior year in high school, he probably wouldn’t have played football. He would’ve went baseball. He loved baseball. He loved being a quarterback. That’s why it’s always shocked everybody – ‘Why won’t he just go to the defensive side?’ His statement was clear, was why would you want to do something you don’t love doing?
“This is truly about something I’m certain has been in there for a long time, and I wouldn’t see him conceding on this unless it’s like, ‘You know what? I’m not going to be able to pull this off.’ And I don’t see quit in there. I can see where in football, OK, he may have read writing on the wall. But I don’t see that quit in the personality and the makeup.”