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Threshers officials ready for Tebowmania
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Photo by Helene Haessler/St. Lucie Mets
Tim Tebow heads to Clearwater Aug. 14-17 as his team, the St. Lucie Mets, step to the plate during a four-game series against the Clearwater Threshers at Spectrum Field.
CLEARWATER – Spectrum Field in Clearwater has seen its share of large crowds over the years, with thousands of fans packing the stadium for Phillies spring training games, high school graduation ceremonies and Fourth of July fireworks displays, among other events.

But the atmosphere at the Clearwater Threshers’ home should be unusual next week, as former University of Florida gridiron star and current New York Mets minor leaguer Tim Tebow comes to town with the team’s St. Lucie affiliate for a four-game series beginning Monday, Aug. 14.

According to Threshers officials, the club has already presold thousands of tickets for the series, and staff is prepared for the increased attendance that will accompany the former NFL quarterback.

“There’s a little bit of increased security, but operationally, there’s really no changes,” said Threshers General Manager and Phillies Director of Florida Operations John Timberlake in a phone interview earlier this week. “Basically, it’s treated a little more like a spring training game from a security standpoint. You’ve got a little bit of celebrity there, so you have to treat it that way.”

Timberlake said the big difference with this series is the fact that it’s during the week, which is typically a slow time for minor league games.

“We probably have 15 crowds of 6,000-plus people per year, so we’re accustomed to having bigger crowds. You just don’t normally get them on a Monday through Thursday,” he said, noting they expect a reported attendance of 5,000-plus for all four games. “So, it’s really a big boost for us.”

Despite the “business as usual” approach, Timberlake said he is expecting an electric atmosphere at the ballpark because of Tebow’s immense, and seemingly unflagging, popularity.

“We’ve had Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and Curt Schilling (come through) over the years and it didn’t move the needle as much as this does,” he said. “I mean this is comparable to Michael Jordan’s spring in Birmingham. The surprising part is the appeal just continues. The longevity of it. I think there’s a lot of reasons for a lot of people to really like this guy. We’re excited about it. It’s going to be an electric atmosphere.”

As if the series wasn’t going to be big enough, Monday is Tebow’s 30th birthday, and the Threshers have a special celebration planned for the Jacksonville native.

“Monday is his 30th birthday, and we’re going to present him with a big cake on top of the dugout after the sixth inning and have everybody sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him,” Timberlake said, adding, “That’s part of the fun of Minor League baseball.”

Timberlake also said that access to Tebow, who starred for the Gators from 2006-09, winning the Heisman Trophy and two national championships, would be based on his availability and willingness to accommodate fans.

“If he’s willing to sign (autographs) pregame, he will. If he’s willing to sign postgame, he will, and we can’t do anything differently,” Timberlake said, noting there’s no guarantee Tebow will play in all four games. “I understand he’s pretty gracious that way, but like any other player, when he’s ready to do his work, he’s not going to stop and sign. We just hope people will be on their best behavior and just enjoy the electric atmosphere, because it will be an electric atmosphere, there’s no doubt about that. We plan on having some fun with it.”

If you go

What: Clearwater Threshers vs. St. Lucie Mets

When: Monday, Aug. 14-Thursday, Aug. 17 (all games 7 p.m.)

Where: Spectrum Field, 601 Old Coachman Road, Clearwater

Details: Former University of Florida quarterback and current Minor League baseball player Tim Tebow comes to Spectrum Field in Clearwater with the St. Lucie Mets for a four-game series against the Threshers. Tebow, a Jacksonville native, has remained an icon to millions through his forays in the NFL and now professional baseball, and he has been setting attendance records throughout his stint in the minors. Threshers officials are expecting crowds of 5,000-plus for the games and have noted there’s no guarantee Tebow will play in all four games or sign autographs for fans.

Info: For ticket availability and more Threshers information, visit the team website at Thres­hersb­aseba­ll.co­m or call 727-712-4300.
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