TAMPA — Tim Tebow the baseball player has had some ups and downs. His 2017 season has featured hot streaks and slumps, highlights and lowlights, leaving talent evaluators unsure about his future.
Tim Tebow the human being, on the other hand, is the same as ever: gracious and kind, and always looking to brighten a child's day.
In Saturday's St. Lucie Mets game at Steinbrenner Field, a 5-1 victory for the Tampa Yankees, Tebow had no hits and two strikeouts in three at-bats. Still, each at-bat elicited cheers. But nothing made the crowd light up like what Tebow did during the seventh-inning stretch.
The Yankees usually go with a recording of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. On Saturday, they opted for a live singer to perform God Bless America.
Before the singer began, she let the announcer know that she wanted to have Tebow's support for her performance. The outfielder ran over behind home plate, stood next to her and guided her along through the song.
By the time she was done, nearly all the fans were on their feet, clapping and cheering for the singer and Tebow.
Kim and Bill Fisackerly, 53 and 54, are Florida State fans. But the Tampa residents like Tebow as well, and they applauded the 2007 UF Heisman winner's gesture in the seventh.
"He has a heart for special needs," said Kim, who donned a Tebow Mets shirsey. "I know he doesn't like all the hoopla on him, but he's using it for a good cause, so that's beautiful to see."
Tebow later suffered an injury scare. Leading off the ninth inning against left-hander Trevor Lane, Tebow took a pitch to the head. He kept his footing, but the blow sent his helmet flying.
The crowd rained down boos as Tebow walked slowly to first. A Mets trainer checked on him, as he appeared shaken, but he remained in the game.
Three batters later, Tebow scored on a double by shortstop J.C. Rodriguez. From the instant the ball left Rodriguez's bat, to long after Tebow crossed the plate, fans cheered and applauded.
Tebow's hitting slump continued. He's 7-for-56 in his last 16 games.
But the fans were still supportive.
Donna Fellows-Coffey, a 40-year-old Davenport resident, said Tebow is used to the pressure from those supporters, having played at Florida and in the NFL.
"How many minor leaguers do you see that have people in the stands with their T-shirts on?" said Fellows-Coffey, who was wearing a Tebow Mets shirsey. "Sometimes he overperforms, and sometimes he's just a football guy trying to make it, but … you can't expect him to homer every game."