Florida Legend Draws Record Miracle Crowds

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Tim Tebow Came to Town!

Tim Tebow came to Fort Myers from Friday, June 30, through Monday, July 3, as a member of the St. Lucie Mets, the Single A affiliate of the New York Mets. Despite rain issues over the four days, his star power did not disappoint, leading our own Single A team, the Fort Myers Miracle, to shatter attendance records.

TT started the Friday game batting 8th and playing left field. With rain falling around 6:45 p.m., this pushed back the scheduled 7:05 start until conditions cleared at 8:05. This proved a benefit to late-arriving fans, as cars lined up in both directions from the CenturyLink Sports Complex entrance on Six Mile Cypress Parkway until roughly 8:30. While Tebow struggled with the bat prior to his call-up to St. Lucie earlier in the week, he was red hot in his first three games with the Mets, going 5 for 9 to hit .556.

tim tebow, miracle baseball, traffic
Traffic backed up more than a half-mile to enter CenturyLink Sports Complex to watch Tim Tebow.

As Tebow ran out to left in the bottom of the 1st inning, a huge rainbow popped out over right field, to the absolute surprise of no one, then Tim Terrific quickly influenced the game! The Miracle had a runner on 1st base with 2 out, when its clean-up hitter belted a long shot down the left field line, looking like an early 2-run home run. Tebow, however, sprinted into the corner, leaped, and pulled the ball back over the wall, crashing into the padding then doing a complete summersault. When he popped up, the snow cone of the ball was still in the tip of his glove, eliciting a standing ovation from the 6,315 in attendance, more than triple the average Miracle Friday night crowd!

This was exciting and crucial, as the Mets and Miracle pitchers matched zeros, keeping the game scoreless until the 8th, when the home team broke loose, scoring an unbelievable 11 runs to win 11 to 0. Despite his defensive play, TT was unsuccessful at the plate, striking out twice and being hit by a pitch.

Rain, Rain Go Away!

Unfortunately for the Miracle, it rained buckets Saturday evening, washing out the game and the expected crowd of 7,000 fans, forcing a Sunday afternoon doubleheader.

Here weather betrayed the Miracle again, but not with rain but heat! When the first game began at 2 p.m., with TT hitting 6th and again in left field, it was sunny, muggy, and 95 degrees, with the heat index near 110! Although attendance would eventually reach 4,015 people, there were only about 500 sweltering souls for the first pitch, huddling in Hammond Stadium’s few shady areas. St. Lucie eventually won 5 to 4, with TT again 0 for 2 with a walk, including being thrown out at home in a bang-bang play.

Fans line up by the hundreds to enter Hammond Stadium to see Tim Tebow.

With the large crowd in place for the 2nd game, they received a disappointment, as TT did not start, though he did reward them late, with a pinch-hit infield single in the last inning of the 12 to 1 Miracle victory.

Monday, July 3, was a record-setting night, despite a 30-minute rain delay before the game and an over 90-minute downpour in the bottom of the 3rd inning, but for those who left early, they already received their Tebow Treat! He batted in the top of the 3rd inning, with the bases loaded, two out, and the Mets trailing 4 to 1. TT laced the 1st pitch up the left-center gap, clearing the bases to tie the game and bringing the huge crowd to their feet!

Following the rain delay, with half the crowd home drying out, the Mets took a 7 to 4 lead before the Miracle scored 6 runs in the 7th to win 10 to 7, taking 3 out of the 4-game series. TT walked in his final two at-bats, finishing the series 2-for-7, with 3 walks and one hit-by-pitch, leaving Fort Myers with a still-great .438 average, getting on-base in 6 of his 11 at-bats, going 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position and 3 RBI.

Box Office Pop

While demonstrating a good eye, as evidenced by his three walks, TT obviously struggles with 95 mile-per-hour fastballs. He came into this series with the reputation for striking out, and while he did so his first two at-bats but not again for the rest of the four games, he however only pulled the ball once, hitting a weak grounder to 2nd base. Every other time he put the ball in play, the left-hander was late, hitting everything to the left side of the field. Despite his dazzling play to begin the series, Tebow defensively seems to have a very weak throwing arm, unusual for a former NCAA and NFL quarterback.

If his baseball talents remain in question, TT’s box office pop does not! The Miracle drew roughly 24,000 fans to the four games, including its all-time record crowd on Monday evening, in its 25th anniversary year, with 9,478 people, bettering its previous mark of 9,209 from April 2015 The weekend total would undoubtable have been higher had the Saturday evening game not been rained out, to be replaced with the stifling Sunday afternoon doubleheader.

tim tebow, fans, autographs
Fans 15 rows deep, waiting for Tim Tebow to come out to sign autographs.

Prior to and after each game, at every opportunity, TT signed autographs and posed for photographs; to the credit of Miracle and Florida Gator fans, he endured very little heckling from the stands. Following the series, the Miracle were 7 – 3 in their 2nd Half, one-half game out of 1st place in the South Division of the Florida State League, while the Mets limped out-of-town in last place at 2 – 8.

If you missed the Tim Tebow Experience, you have other chances in the very near future, as the Mets return to Hammond Stadium from Saturday, July 15, to Monday, July 17, with Saturday’s game at 6:05 p.m.; Sunday at 4:05 p.m., and the Monday contest at a special morning time of 11:05 a.m. For tickets or related information, see miraclebaseball.com.

 

Gary Mooney