Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Sports

Tim Tebow starts against Tampa Yankees, delights fans

TAMPA — The moment Bill and Adele Geyer had waited for was finally here.

The St. Lucie Mets were in the second game of four in their series against the Tampa Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The 60-year-old Tampa residents showed up in Tim Tebow Mets shirseys, hoping to see the former Florida quarterback. While Tebow didn't start Thursday, he was hitting seventh and playing leftfield Friday.

In the second inning, Tebow came to the plate in a key situation: Facing an early 2-0 deficit, the Mets had a runner on second with one out.

Tebow couldn't bring catcher Patrick Mazeika around to score, but his groundout to second advanced him to third. And Bill was content with that result.

"Failure is 70 percent of the game," he said. 'The best players in the world are successful 30 percent of the time."

Tebow's absence Thursday wasn't due to injury ­— he entered the game in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement in leftfield. Tebow was just getting a day off.

The former UF football star, who turns 30 Monday, has been in a nasty slump. Entering Friday, he was 6-for-49 in his previous 14 games.

St. Petersburg resident Stephanie Davies, 29, suspects a problem in his swing. She's played softball for 15 years, and from her vantage point along the third-base line, she said she detected problems in his mechanics.

"It looks like he's trying to swing for the fence, versus actually trying to get a base hit," she said. "If he focuses a little more on his mechanics, he'll come out of the slump."

For the second straight night, the Yankees drew a massive crowd. Fans cheered when Tebow came to the plate in the second, and applauded his productive out.

And the fans got a better outcome the next time around.

With two runners on, Tebow laced a ground ball to the right of shortstop Hoy Jun Park. He dove for it, but it glanced off his glove and trickled into leftfield, scoring Mazeika from second.

The cheers Tebow got as he stood at first base — and as he scored later on shortstop J. C. Rodriguez's sacrifice fly — were some of the loudest of the night.

As Tebow makes adjustments to snap out of his funk — before Thursday's game, he said he was adjusting his timing and swing — David Jean-Louis has faith in him. The St. Petersburg resident, 29, expects Tebow to rebound.

"He's a winner, since college, since high school," he said. "He's Tebow, so he'll find a way to get through it. It happens."

The Mets have had a tough time in Tampa. After losing 11-5 on Thursday, they found themselves in a 12-5 hole Friday through six innings.

And with storm clouds brewing outside the field, the Geyers weren't interested in sticking around after Tebow's RBI single.

"We're going to beat that," Bill said, pointing at the ominous sky. "If the weather was not threatening, we would probably stay a little longer, but we are trying to beat that out of here."

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