Gary Sheffield: If Tebow Is Patient, He Can Play Baseball

Gary Sheffield played in the big leagues for more than 20 years. He was a nine-time All-Star, a five-time Silver Slugger winner, a batting champion and a World Series champion. In short, he knows a thing or two about baseball.

So if he thinks Tim Tebow can play Major League Baseball, well, maybe he can.

Sheffield recently worked with Tebow in a batting cage and tweeted that Tebow is “a NATURAL.” Sheffield went on to say, “I absolutely believe in his ability to play in the bigs. Tim has IT”.

“I was shocked just as much as you guys are shocked,” Sheffield said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I didn’t expect to see what I saw. He asked me to give him my honest opinion of what I think of him hitting, and I felt like he already knew that’s what I would give him. When he went in the cage, after the first swing, I was surprised. I’m looking at this big chest, big arms, big guy – and that bat got through there pretty quick and I heard that sound. There’s a baseball sound that you hear. You know a guy, when he makes contact, is going to do damage when you hear that sound, and that’s the sound that I heard.

“Now I saw some things in there that he needs to work on, but those things can easily be fixed,” Sheffield continued. “I know his determination and I know his dedication to anything he wants to achieve, he’s going to put in overtime just to do it. . . . That’s what I like about him. If you give me about two months with him, then he will understand everything about hitting as far as your approach, what kind of hitter he is, things that he has to look out for, what pitchers are trying to do. I think if he’s patient with this, he can do it.”

As Tiki Barber can attest, however, a lot of guys have the look of a pro athlete, but they don’t have the skills or the intangibles. Does Tebow have enough of those to make it in the bigs?

“That’s on Tebow,” Sheffield said. “Based on what I saw in the cage, yes, I think he really has a shot. I’m not trying to make this about comparing him to Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson or Brian Jordan. Tim Tebow, they’re not looking at this situation the same. This is a Michael Jordan situation. This is a Michael Jordan situation that he’s going to get a shot because he’s Tim Tebow. Let’s just be honest. But what I’m saying to you is he has a better swing than Michael Jordan. If you look at his swing and if you look at my swing or anybody with power’s swing, that’s what you see.”

Critics argue that Tebow, who plans to hold an open workout for MLB scouts next month, would struggle hitting 100 mile-per-hour fastballs, but Sheffield doesn’t see that as a legitimate criticism.

“Nobody can hit a 100 mile-an-hour fastball on a consistent basis,” Sheffield said. “Nobody.”

Sheffield, 47, has not seen Tebow shag fly balls but believes he could play first base or outfield. He also thinks that any flaws in his swing could be fixed, especially after seeing him mash fastballs, breaking balls and off-speed stuff in the cage.

“He’s getting it all. It’s just that he knows it’s coming,” Sheffield said. “That’s the thing (that) everybody is saying: ‘When you go in a cage, you can hit this and hit that.’ But at the end of the day, there’s all kinds of ways to hit. You can hit spread out. You can hit standing tall. It doesn’t matter. It’s just when you get started. That’s what matters. If I’m able to work with him, then those are the things we would fix. Those are things that are so easy to fix – stride and overcompensating for breaking balls and being early. That’s all pitchers try to do. They’re trying to get you out front to get you off of their fastball. There’s all kinds of tricks for that, and if I show him the tricks to it, then Tim is the type of player when I say he has the it factor, he will learn this and then he will understand it and he will go out and do what he needs to do.”

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