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NL East: Tim Tebow begins workouts, 'I'm part of the Mets family'

NL East: Tim Tebow begins workouts, 'I'm part of the Mets family'

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) -- Tim Tebow arrived at the New York Mets' minor league clubhouse Monday morning, finding an orange-and-blue jersey with No. 15 on the back swaying in his locker.

He was asked if that worked.

"Heck, yeah," Tebow replied.

It's the same color scheme he wore as a national champion and Heisman Trophy winner at Florida, and the same number he wore with the Gators and throughout his less-than-storied years as an NFL quarterback. And now he's wearing it again as he tries to find a place in baseball, going through his first workout with the Mets' instructional league squad on Monday.

He showed some power, hitting three balls in batting practice off the chain-link fence in right-center -- better than just about everyone else did. He showed some rust, popping up a half-dozen pitches in that same BP session. And he showed a need for work, after one of his throws sailed well over someone's head and nearly onto an adjacent field during a simple game of catch.

"It was a lot of fun," Tebow said. "It was great. It was great to be on a team. It was great to just go through a warmup and go through drills, just have fun, take BP, get to know all the guys, try to remember as many names as possible."

Predictably, it was also a circus atmosphere.

Hundreds of fans -- many wearing Tebow jerseys, some even wearing now-on-sale Mets shirts with Tebow's name -- showed up; a worker at the Mets' complex said instructional league workouts last year drew maybe a couple dozen people, tops. A news helicopter circled over the field where Tebow worked for more than an hour. He got a huge cheer from fans for executing his first official drill, one where he learned how to take a lead off first base.

"Never been here before," said Sarah Dale, a waitress who works an overnight shift and now says she'll be a Mets fan. "I'm here for Tim Tebow. ... He's a people person. Everyone loves him."

Less than a month ago, Tebow was in his native Philippines, working with special-needs and ill children -- one of his longtime passions. He's now one of 58 players on the Mets' instructional league roster, and at 29 he's also four years older than any other invitee. Two of the players on the roster won't even turn 18 until next year.

Tebow's last time playing true organized baseball was in his junior year of high school, when he batted nearly .500 for Nease High near Jacksonville, Florida. Tebow worked out for scouts in Los Angeles last month and not long afterward the Mets signed him to a deal that included a $100,000 bonus.

"A lot of people would say, `Well, it puts a chip on your shoulder,'" Tebow said. "I mean, I guess I have a little chip. You want to prove people right. Not really the naysayers, it's more that I want to prove the coaches right, the Mets organization, my teammates, play with my teammates and try to be the best baseball player I can -- more importantly, the best person I can."

Tebow last appeared in an NFL regular-season game during the 2012 season. He was in camp with the New England Patriots in 2013 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015, and started workouts with the thought of seriously trying baseball a few months ago.

He said if the Patriots -- who are without Tom Brady for two more games and now have Jimmy Garoppolo dealing with an injury -- or any other football team came calling, now they'd get a quick answer.

"I'm part of the Mets family," Tebow said.

The Mets say Tebow will be part of daily workouts through Thursday. He'll be excused Friday and Saturday for his college football analyst duties with the SEC Network, and the instructional roster has a day off Sunday.

But Tebow said he plans to work out Friday before leaving for his TV job, saying he'll probably wind up being gone from camp for only about 24 hours. He's serious about this pursuit, and insisted that getting to the major leagues is his goal.

"It was one of the hardest decisions of my life to choose football over baseball," Tebow said. "There were a lot of times at Florida where I thought about going out and starting baseball. And then over the course of the last few years it's something I've thought about a bunch.

"My first sporting activity, I played for the White Sox at Normandy Baseball Park. I didn't want to put down a bat since."

The bat -- a 34-inch, 33-ounce maple one, to be precise -- is back in his hands again.

[RELATED: Harper breaks hitless streak vs. Braves; will Nats clinch NL East soon?]

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It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm