Paul Batura: Tim Tebow’s struggles teach my son (and me) far more than any success could

Say what you will about Tim Tebow’s current offensive struggles with the Triple-A Syracuse Mets – but the man practices what he preaches.

Now in his third year of professional baseball, the one-time NFL quarterback is laboring through a difficult start to his season. His batting average is anemic, and the fate of his baseball career is hanging in the balance.

TIM TEBOW HITS FIRST TRIPLE-A HOME RUN FOLLOWING EARLY SEASON STRUGGLES

Yet the 31-year-old remains upbeat and even optimistic.

“I think I’m improving. I’m working,” Tebow told a reporter last week. “I think I’m getting better, adapting to some really good players, and I think that’s important.”

I don’t know Tim Tebow personally, but we share a faith in the same God, a stabilizing and empowering personal relationship with a Savior who provides perspective and assurance that our future is secure, regardless of life’s setbacks, which often threaten to roll over us like rough surf.

As my 13-year-old son fights his way through his own challenging baseball season, a year where he doesn’t always start or finish, and in a league where the pitching is sometimes faster than he can comfortably hit it, Riley is watching Tebow’s uneven climb – and sometimes taking notes.

Early on, it was clear to both of us that Riley wasn’t the most talented player, at least skill wise, on the team. He’s a solid, scrappy player – but let’s face it, some of the guys have more natural baseball talent. This means that with only 9 spots in the lineup, he isn’t always guaranteed a starting slot and sometimes sits the bench for several innings.

Dads who have “been there” remember the car rides home from those games - the pep talks and regular reminders that failure is never final – it only happens when you stop trying. All the other adages come to mind, and you do your best to encourage by saying enough but not too much, sharing observations like “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”

By the time we stop and enjoy a Big Gulp or Chick-fil-A, Riley is usually ready to get back out there and give it another shot.

We love Tim Tebow because he’s always ready get back out there also - to try and try again.  We root for him – and how can you not?

In a day and age when we lament the loss of role models and heroes, the football-turned-baseball prospect is nearly everything you could want in both an athlete and person.

On the field, he plays hard, competes fairly and regularly encourages both his teammates and opponents. Off the field, he mingles and talks with fans, readily signs autographs, builds orphanages and hospitals in the Philippines, and escorts individuals with special needs to dances planned and paid for by his foundation.

Many of us also appreciate that he regularly expresses his Christian faith in the public square, often enduring the wrath and ridicule of critics.

So in our family, we cheer each time something good happens for Tebow on the baseball diamond, like this past week when he hit his first Triple-A home run.

But we’re also cheering for Tebow for the way he’s handling the struggle – a surer sign yet of a person’s true character. He’s resilient. He’s gritty. When tough times come, he bends, but he doesn’t break.

In a way, Tebow’s minor league odyssey mirrors life. Sure, we’d like to think our lives are like an ESPN SportsCenter highlight reel, but they rarely are. Life is a lot more mundane, even a grind that requires grit and persistence and the ability to manage disappointments when they come, which they always do.

And “grind” is probably the best way to describe Tebow’s minor league mission – long bus trips, relatively low pay and only a modicum of measurable success thus far this season.

Last week, I’d like to think a bit of Tebow’s strong work ethic and good sportsmanship amidst his troubles rubbed off on Riley. His team had just squeaked out a 6-4 win, and I congratulated him on the victory. I told him he did well but was sorry he only played three innings of the seven-inning game.

“That’s okay, Dad,” he said, “I’d rather do that and win than play every inning and have the team lose.”

I was really proud of my son.

And that’s why I admire role models like Tebow, especially when I’m reminded that values like that are as much caught as they are taught.

Whether or not Tebow ever plays in a Major League Baseball game, the former Heisman recipient is a “winner” in my book, not only for what he’s already accomplished but for what he’s teaching my son - and me - by persisting with a positive attitude through the grind of the struggle.

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I don’t know Tim Tebow personally, but we share a faith in the same God, a stabilizing and empowering personal relationship with a Savior who provides perspective and assurance that our future is secure, regardless of life’s setbacks, which often threaten to roll over us like rough surf.

In the end, Tim Tebow, and those of us who hold his faith, can rest easy through any strife or struggle and echo the words of the poet Priscilla Leonard who once wrote, “On the far reef the breakers recoil in shattered foam, while still the sea behind them urges its forces home. Its song of triumph surges o’er all the thunderous din; the wave may break in failure, but the tide is sure to win.”

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