Credit Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic, via Associated Press
PHOENIX — From the baseball diamond at Camelback Ranch, the University of Phoenix Stadium rises like a silvery moon. The stadium was the site of one of Tim Tebow’s many football triumphs. After the 2006 season, he was a member of the Florida team that upset top-ranked Ohio State in the national championship game.
Tebow, a reserve quarterback, scored two touchdowns, one by air and the other with his legs. Nearly a decade later, Tebow, 29, who spent three seasons in the N.F.L., took a step Tuesday in his quest to earn respect on another team, in a different sport, when he made his debut in the Arizona Fall League.
Playing outfield for the Scottsdale Scorpions, Tebow, a Mets prospect, went 0 for 3 at the plate, with three ground outs. The most solid contact Tebow made was with the left-field wall, which he crashed into face first while in pursuit of a fly ball that had eluded his outstretched glove.
“I’ve been hit harder,” he said. “So I’m O.K.”
Tebow’s afternoon took an intense turn after the game when a man standing in a crush of fans seeking autographs along the third-base line collapsed and appeared to have a seizure. Tebow stopped signing and cautiously made his way over to where people had gathered. He sat on the concrete retaining wall that separates the field from the first row of seats and prayed silently as a medic in a Bryce Harper T-shirt and a Detroit Tigers baseball cap tended to the man.
As the man was slowly coming to, Tebow leaned over and placed his right hand on the man’s left knee while Daniel Kelly, a former Jets scout who left football to become a debt counselor and minister, prayed out loud. Kelly, who was wearing a Mets Tebow jersey, attended the game with his wife, Samantha, to celebrate his 43rd birthday, and had been seated next to the fan who collapsed.
As the man regained his bearings, Tebow engaged him in conversation while waiting for paramedics from the Phoenix Fire Department to arrive. The man had dropped a baseball as he collapsed and it was near the crook of his arm as he lay on his right side with his head resting on a black backpack. Tebow leaned over, picked up the ball and signed it. He returned it to him saying, “I signed it for you if you want it.” He also took off the gray sweat bands that he had on each wrist, signed them and gave them to the man.
Tebow asked him where he was from (Hayesville, N.C.) and found out they had a friend in common whom Tebow described as “a really nice kid.” He asked the man, who said his first name was Brendan, if he was a Batman fan. When he answered in the affirmative, Tebow asked him if he had seen the latest Batman movie (he had) and what he thought of the ending. He found out that the man worked at Amazon. “Nice,” Tebow replied. “They’re taking over!” The man also volunteered that he learned this year that he had a brain tumor. “I’ll be praying for you, O.K.,” Tebow said. “By name.”
He sat talking with the man for roughly 15 minutes. “Sorry this happened,” the man said. “Glad I got the chance to meet you,” Tebow replied.
The man, aware that Tebow works as a college football analyst, shifted the conversation to that topic. Tebow asked for his favorite college team and he replied, “Bulldogs.” Raising his voice in mock anger, Tebow said: “Are you kidding me? I don’t know how to respond to that.” He listened intently as the man told him about a major recruit on Georgia’s radar.
Tebow left for the Scorpions team bus only after paramedics arrived and shooed everybody out of the way.
In a scrum with 21 members of the news media before he started signing autographs, Tebow was asked if he received overtures from N.F.L. teams after 2012, his last season in the league, to gauge his interest in playing a position other than quarterback. He said he had. So why did he say no?
“Just because it’s an opportunity in the N.F.L. that doesn’t mean it’s in my heart,” Tebow said. He loved playing quarterback and when that door closed, he sought new challenges — and baseball is his latest.
“You definitely miss football sometimes,” he said. “I’m thankful I get to talk about it every weekend and have fun. Yeah, there are times it’s like, man, I love that sport, it’s super fun, but this is also a lot of fun.”
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated a part of the name of the football stadium near the ballpark. It is the University of Phoenix Stadium, not the University of Arizona Stadium.