One of the biggest, if not THE BIGGEST, story in Minor League Baseball this season is the play of former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. Years ago, I wrote for a Minor League Baseball site, and I guarantee I would have been all over this story in every location he played. But as this website is focused strictly on Tampa Bay area baseball, I am keeping my Tebow writing to only his appearances here.
Prior to his arrival in the Florida State League, Tebow boosted attendance throughout the South Atlantic League Columbia Fireflies, the Mets Low-A Minor League affiliate. Baseball America had a very good article stating Tebow was worth approximately 2,000 fans per game.
For the lowest rungs of Minor League Baseball, that’s very significant.
Although he has played for the St Lucie Mets since early July, Tebow visited Tampa Bay teams for the first time in early August, when the Mets played the Tampa Yankees and Clearwater Threshers. The Mets played their scheduled games against Dunedin and Bradenton prior to Tebow’s arrival.
While it is easy to say “Tebow drew X fans”, the true measure is looking how many he drew above the average per day. Weekends of course draw more than weekdays and heavily promoted days draw more than non-promoted days. The below chart shows the effect Tim Tebow had on attendance at Steinbrenner Field and Spectrum Field.
Clearly, Tebow had a huge impact on attendance, from 170% above daily average to 362% above daily average. Even the Threshers $1 Tuesdays saw a huge bump in attendance. While total attendance for Tebow’s games in Tampa Bay was 40,351, these games drew 24,336 above average. That’s 252% or 2.5x the average attendance, every game.
Should Tim Tebow be playing in Minor Leagues? Maybe, maybe not. Is he taking up the spot a younger prospect should have? Maybe, maybe not. Is he a feel-good story when our world is lacking in them? Perhaps. Is he good for the business of Minor League Baseball in Tampa Bay? Absolutely.
Additionally, for those curious, here is how the Tampa Bay Rays fared in ticket sales while Tebow played the Yankees across the bay.
There isn’t much here. Rays attendance on weekdays did worse, but that could also be attributed to the team’s worse play of late. Rays attendance on Saturday did better, but attendance on Sunday was almost exactly the average. There is almost no way to attribute the effect of Tim Tebow to any of these four games.
Tim Tebow will continue to be a story as long as he continues to play Minor League Baseball. While he might play for the Mets as they visit Tampa Bay during Spring Training, his Minor League experiences against Tampa Bay area teams is likely over, as he will probably move up to the Mets AA Minor League affiliate next season.
But for one week during one season, Tim Tebow fans in Tampa Bay came out in droves* to see their favorite player.
(*droves = a completely arbitrary term of measurement not often used on this website)