Friday, January 19, 2018
Sports

Tim Tebow a boon for FSL attendance, but Clearwater was thriving even before the mania

CLEARWATER — Tim Tebow's effect on attendance in the Florida State League has been well-chronicled. Whether at home or on the road, the St. Lucie Mets have drawn scores of spectators hoping to see the Heisman Trophy winner play baseball.

But fans were coming to Spectrum Field long before Tebow swung through. For this season, the Clearwater Threshers have averaged 2,859 per home opening, most in the Class A league.

Gail Hurn has contributed to that. The 64-year-old Clearwater resident regularly comes to Tuesday games with her running group, for the "Dollar Tuesday" promotion, where fans can purchase hot dogs, popcorn, draft beers and other concessions for $1.

"We'll run before and then come," she said Tuesday. "It's a fun time, and it's extra special tonight."

While Hurn enjoys the cheap eats, she's also a fan of Tebow. She said her husband, Jimmy, knew Tebow's mother, and they've both admired the Mets slugger since his time starring in football at Florida. When the Mets promoted him to the FSL, Hurn knew she wanted to come see him.

"I went to my running club, and I said, 'We're going to that Threshers game!' " she said.

The Threshers drew 5,543 fans Monday and 8,214 came through the turnstiles Tuesday to see the Mets win 5-4. Of those, many came for Tebow, as evidenced by the distribution of No. 15 jerseys and "shirseys" throughout the crowd.

Still, baseball is baseball, even on a muggy Tuesday in mid August. And when fans can get into the park for a buck, they'll take the opportunity.

Eric Armetta is a Rays season-ticket holder, but with the major-league team in Toronto, he decided to buy a berm ticket for the Threshers game, which go for $1 on Tuesdays. Getting the chance to see Tebow was a bonus for the 27-year-old Clearwater resident.

"I'm definitely rooting for him," he said, sitting on a picnic blanket on the grassy hill beyond the outfield fences. "It is nice seeing him doing somewhat well here in the Florida State League."

Tebow had a productive game Monday, reaching base safely three times on a two-run single and two walks. He couldn't match that output Tuesday, going 0-for-3 with a walk in his four at-bats.

In the fourth inning, after looking over two called strikes, he attempted to check his swing on a pitch low and away. The first-base umpire rung him up on the appeal, and Tebow lingered at the plate, staring down the first-base line, before walking back to the dugout.

Later in the game, with runners on first and second, Tebow again stepped to the plate. He worked the count full, then took ball four inside from left-hander JoJo Romero.

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