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Tim Tebow shows off baseball skills, and some scouts say he’ll likely be signed and sent to the minors

Tim Tebow showcased his baseball skills Aug. 30 before a bevy of scouts on the USC campus.

Tim Tebow showcased his baseball skills Tuesday before a bevy of scouts on the USC campus, in a spectacle broadcast by dozens of television cameras, many live.

The 29-year-old former college All-American and NFL quarterback ran a 60-yard dash, threw, caught flies and grounders in the outfield, took standard batting practice and then faced two pitchers with big league experience in live batting practice.

The Dodgers’ director of amateur scouting, Billy Gasparino, was in attendance, as was a pro scout for the Angels, former big leaguer Ben Francisco. At least 27 of MLB’s 30 teams had representatives in attendance.

Scouts queried agreed that Tebow is likely to be signed and assigned to the lower levels of the minors, perhaps high Class-A or Double-A, as a corner outfielder. His ability to hit in a competitive setting should be discerned after that. His agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA, noted that teams expressed immediate interest after the tryout.

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Alongside a glamour shot distributed to media in attendance, CAA listed Tebow at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, a rare weight for a big league position player. Still, scouts timed him between 6.6 and 6.8 seconds in the dash, generally considered above average for major leaguers. He was said to have strained his oblique muscle in recent days.

His throws from the outfield and fielding were below average, two scouts said.

While batting, Tebow faced former USC pitcher Chad Smith, recently released by Texas, and longtime reliever David Aardsma, who went to camp with Toronto this season. Both men faced him several times in preparation for the event. Tuesday’s performance, they each said, was not his best.

“Last week was the third time I threw to him, and it was unreal,” Smith said. “You wouldn’t believe it. He hit everything. He’s improved a lot.”

Aardsma said he was scared to face Tebow after the second time he pitched to him, when, he said, he could hardly retire him.

“Today was the worst I’ve seen him,” Aardsma said. “It looked like he was trying really hard, overswinging a bit. It’s what you do when you’ve got 200 people and cameras everywhere and you’re the only guy they’re watching.”

Tebow last played competitive baseball in the spring of 2005 for Nease High in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. He said ceasing to play then was “the second-hardest decision” he ever made, after choosing the University of Florida over Alabama. He went on to play four years of football for Florida and three seasons plus two preseasons in the NFL.

Throughout, he said, “there wasn’t a season that went by that baseball wasn’t something I thought about.”

Tebow has increasingly worked as a broadcaster for ESPN, and he said Tuesday he has standing offers to play football at other positions besides quarterback. But he said is most passionate about baseball — hitting, specifically. After a rant against sports specialization, he delved into an ardent, engaging defense of that passion in a press conference after the workout.

Asked about the many major leaguers who’ve expressed doubt about the seriousness of his endeavor, Tebow said he was thankful they were not making the decisions. Asked about the possibility he would fail, he said he was entirely unworried about “falling flat on my face,” as long he tried, and implored everyone listening to approach their challenges the same way.

“I’m just looking for an opportunity,” he said.

Any team that offers one will be betting that Tebow’s superb athletic condition can compensate for a decade without baseball. His hitting abilities, primarily, are in question.

“He’s got bat-to-ball,” Smith said. “It’s gonna be pitch recognition, learning when to swing, when not to swing and just having an approach. But that’s in-game experience. That’s all he needs.”

Smith compared Tebow to former Stanford running back and outfielder Toby Gerhart, the 2009 Heisman runner-up and former NFL player. Aardsma said Tebow’s stance reminded him of New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira.

“He was a lot better than I expected,” said one scout who requested anonymity because his job does not permit him to submit his evaluations for the public. “But I didn’t really expect much.”

pedro.moura@latimes.com

Twitter: @pedromoura

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UPDATES:

3:20 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details.

This article was originally published at 2:02 p.m.


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