2017-04-20 / Sports

BASEBALL’S BEST

Tebow draws crowd to Jackets opener
By LAMAR GARRARD
baseball historian

“ Man, I did love this game. I’d have played for food money. It was the game ... the sounds, the smells. Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face?” – Shoeless Joe Jackson from the movie Field of Dreams.

One of college football’s best quarterbacks ever and former NFL player Tim Tebow made his debut in Augusta last Thursday night at Lake Olmstead Stadium as a professional baseball player for the Columbia Fireflies. Tebow, the Heisman Trophy winner in 2007, and twotime BCS National Champion was mostly responsible for the largest attendance in the stadium’s history. Not since 1988 when Augusta resurrected pro ball in the town, have 5,830 fans come out to see an opening night game. This set an all-time Greenjacket record. The series was to run four days which meant there was a probability of having an attendance for the four games of close to 20,000 patrons. This has never been done in Augusta’s baseball history.

Tim Tebow was a household name in college football during his playing years at the University of Florida. The Gator was a two-time All-American and made the All- SEC team for three years and played three seasons in the NFL for the Denver Broncos, the NY Jets, the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles.

A few months ago, he decided to give professional baseball a try. At 29 years of age, the odds are stacked against him but watching him play and knowing his attitude to give his best in everything he does, he could surprise a lot of critics.

In looking back on his NFL career, maybe he did not get a fair chance. Obviously his Christian faith and his religious stance on issues would not be welcomed by many of the pro football owners and management. It is possible that he was considered a liability by some, but he was and is still one of the most popular pro athletes around.

Will he make it as a professional baseball player? He says he must try and we cannot fault him for that. After all there have been players in the majors that never batted above .200 and they were able to carve out a career. Let just wait and give him his opportunity.

The Greenjackets are calling this their final season at Olmstead Park and are planning next year to move to a new stadium in North Augusta. Meanwhile the team’s general manager, Tom Delinger, along with executive staffers, Shannon Mitchell, Robert Ambrose, and others on the management team, seem to have done a fine job in promoting this year’s edition of the Augusta Greenjacket Team.

Go to Augusta one evening to catch a game before the year is over and you will not be disappointed. The opening night on April 13 had plenty of promotions, giveaways and fan-friendly events. The U.S. Navy Chorale sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. Two U.S. military veterans threw out the first pitch.

The Fireflies defeated the Augusta team 7-2 and Tebow had a single to left field on his first at bat. He got crowd ovations that probably reminded him of his days at Florida while playing at “The Swamp.”

It was nice too to see the Greenjackets’ official scorer and my friend Ted Miller. Ted has deep family roots in Washington and Wilkes County.

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