Fans take photos of Tim Tebow of Binghamton as he takes practice swings before batting on Friday night at Hadlock Field in Portland. (Derek Davis/Press Herald Photo)

The crowd cheered when the .167 hitter came to the plate, and then cheered when Drew Pomeranz struck him out, as if the Major League pitcher had accomplished something major.

A heckler had a field day when the Double-A outfielder’s throw required the cutoff man to jump to catch it. The outfielder had already received guff for similar off-target throws — maybe in Gainesville, Florida, or in Denver.

Other fans cheered for that outfielder for merely running from the dugout to his defensive position.

The souvenir shop was selling shirts with No. 15 on the back and, get this, the visiting team’s logo on the front.

Tim Tebow — that .167-hitting, Double-A-level outfielder — gave Hadlock Field some extra buzz Friday night when the Portland Sea Dogs hosted the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.

Tebow went 1-for-4 with a single and two strikeouts in the Sea Dogs’ 4-2 win over the Rumble Ponies.

Hadlock didn’t need extra buzz Friday. Not only was it the Sea Dogs’ home opener, but Pomeranz, a starter for the Red Sox, was making a rehab start. The combination of the three was too much for Rob Christerson of Biddeford to pass up.

“It’s opening day, I’m obviously a Tebow fan from way back, and Pomeranz pitching, it just makes it beautiful,” Christerson said. “Friday the 13th is good luck, as far as I’m concerned.”

Will McKenna’s reason for going to the ballpark Friday was more singular.

“It was more Tim Tebow,” McKenna, of Brunswick, said.

Tebow might not have brought all the fans to Hadlock, but he seemed to draw the most talked about in conversations throughout the stadium, even more than Pomeranz, the Boston Red Sox starter making a one-time appearance in Portland.

Tebow and Pomeranz received equal amounts of cheers when their names were announced before the game. They faced off twice. Pomeranz got the better of Tebow both times, including a strikeout in the second inning.

“Apparently he hit a first-pitch home run off of someone on this team, so they told me, ‘Just watch out the first pitch,'” Pomeranz said. “It’s funny. It’s fun. You know, just go out there and attack him like any other left-handed hitter.”

Tebow, 30, is in his second year of minor league baseball and his first with the Rumble Ponies. He is both the oldest and the least experienced pro baseball player on the Binghamton roster. But, he’s also the most athletically accomplished thanks to his exploits on football fields.

He’s a Heisman Trophy winner. He has two national championship rings. He was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He led the Broncos to a playoff win in early 2012.

Tebow said his teammates help him as a baseball player, such as offering tips on how to face a pitcher. He, in turn, tries to use his life experiences to help them.

“For me, it’s be able to bring all the things that I’ve been through to help young guys that are super-talented, and, you know, in a matter of months or years, they’re going to be in the big leagues,” Tebow said. “I think that’s something that we’ve tried to do, and hopefully I can be helpful with some of the guys.”

Reppin’ Tebow

There was no shortage of Red Sox caps and T-shirts, but scattered throughout the stadium was Tebow paraphernalia.

There were remnants of his past, such as a No. 15 Denver Broncos jersey held by Christerson, and a few fans decked from head to toe in Florida Gators gear.

There also were symbols of his present. McKenna was wearing one of those Rumble Ponies shirts with Tebow’s name and number on the back. Scott Jordan of Cumberland was wearing what might be the jersey of Tebow’s future, a No. 15 with New York Mets’ pinstripes.

The admiration of Tebow transcends the two pro sports he has played and his stiff-arming trophy.

“I like everything that he stands for,” Jared Bernard of Scarborough said. “I think he’s a good guy.”

“Being a Christian,” Jordan said, “I love Tebow, because he doesn’t change. He’s a man of conviction, he’ll do what he says he’s going to do.”

Tebow’s batting average got up to .190 after his single, and settled at .182 by the end of the game. He has one homer and three RBIs.

Wherever his baseball career takes him, he’ll have people in Maine rooting for him, and others who will relish heckling him.

“I think it’s awesome,” Bernard said. “I hope he makes it up to the majors.”

The Sea Dogs and Rumble Ponies play again Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

Tim Tebow of Binghamton watches the game from the dugout on Friday night before his first at bat at Hadlock Field in Portland. (Derek Davis/Press Herald Photo)


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