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Tim Tebow plans to play baseball in 2021

Even now, Tim Tebow is unwilling to put an expiration date on his big league pursuit. At an age when many players begin to consider retirement, Tebow is preparing to embark upon a fourth Minor League season.

The first three have not been uniformly smooth. In 2017, less than a year after shifting his career from football to baseball, Tebow struggled to gain his footing in Class A ball. He thrived the next season regardless, until a broken hand cut it short. In 2019, another hand injury forced Tebow to miss the final two months of the season. Finally, this summer, the cancellation of the Minor League season resulted in zero live game reps for Tebow (and hundreds of others).

He is 33 now, openly contemplating his life after baseball. He’s just not there quite yet.

“I’m already behind the 8-ball in age and time and experience in all of these things, so of course it makes it harder,” Tebow said in a telephone interview, his first about baseball since March. “But I think at the same time, I try to learn from every bit of it. And that’s all that we can do.”

When COVID-19 forced Major League Baseball to shut down Spring Training operations in March, Tebow was preparing to fly to Arizona to represent the Philippines in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers. Once the coronavirus canceled that trip as well, Tebow drove home to Jacksonville, Fla., unsure if his hiatus would last a few days, a few weeks or a few months.

Like many professional baseball players, he found places to hit and work out, going as far as to measure out basepaths on a local field. But that was largely the extent of what he could do. Even after the regular season began, the Mets never invited Tebow to train at their alternate site in Brooklyn, which they reserved for big league-ready players and top prospects. Nor did Tebow take part in the Mets’ brief instructional league.

So when he does take the field in 2021, likely at Triple-A Syracuse, Tebow will do so not having played a regular-season game in 21 months.

“There have definitely been some setbacks with it from two years ago when I was having what I thought was my best season,” Tebow said, referring to his All-Star first half at Double-A Binghamton in 2018. “Definitely disappointing this year with COVID, but … I’m such a believer that in some areas of my life, every setback has been an opportunity for a setup for something different and unique that I have planned. All these have been pieces of setbacks, but I think I’ve also learned from them, adapted and grown.”