Tim Tebow has gotten a promotion and will no longer be playing baseball in South Carolina.
The Columbia Fireflies, the New York Mets' Class A affiliate, announced that Tebow will be leaving after Sunday's game.
The former NFL quarterback will move on to the St. Lucie Mets, the organization’s Class A-Advanced team.
"The fan support has been great, obviously here, but then everywhere we went, people have shown up," Tebow said just ahead of his final game on Columbia. "And it's not just for me, I think it's for our entire team."
The Fireflies have had Tebow on the roster since the season started in April. He appeared in 63 games this season, batting .222 with three home runs and 23 RBIs.
Fireflies president John Katz said in a press release that Tebow brought experience and leadership to the clubhouse.
“His contributions, both on the field and in our community, have made a tremendous impact on our team, the City of Columbia and the entire South Atlantic League,” Katz said. “We wish Tim the best as he continues his journey to Citi Field.”
Performance or popularity?
Tebow, a two-time national champion and Heisman Trophy winner at Florida, joins three other Fireflies who earned promotions earlier this week.
But while those players are SAL All-Stars and have put up numbers comparable to some of the best sluggers in the Sally League, Tebow’s production has been much less significant.
Tebow said he is not thinking about critics who think his pedestrian statistics earned him a promotion.
"It's not something that I have to answer," he said. "I just try to go out there and try to work. A lot more smarter, wiser people than me that make those decisions."
Fans and other teams in the Palmetto State have praised Tebow for his ability to sell out stadiums at home and on the road.
Charleston RiverDogs president Dave Echols said earlier this month that Tebow’s celebrity is unmatched in minor league baseball.
And RiverDogs manager Patrick Osborn said during the series in Charleston that the South Atlantic League is lucky to have Tebow. Speaking about the sellout crowd at Riley Park, Osborn said, “It’s awesome, and it’s because of him. He’s great for the game and he’s great for the league.”
Impact on the state
Tebow helped push the Fireflies' average attendance up nearly 40 percent over a year ago to an SAL-best 5,230. The Tebow-led team sold out games on the road, including series in Greenville and Charleston.
"Sometimes the results are there sometimes they're not there, sometimes that's the game of baseball," Tebow said. "Like yesterday, I thought I had three really good at-bats in the game and you got no hits to show for it. But I know my progress has led me to being able to have three really good at-bats. ... As an athlete, you can't worry about all those things. You have to focus on, 'Am I seeing the pitches, am I identifying them and what am I doing with them, am I finding things that I can do damage with.' The results are whatever else people are talking about."
Tebow said he hopes he made Columbia a bit better than when he arrived and said living in the capital city had an impact on him.
"But I'm still not a Gamecock fan," he added.
No hard feelings
Tebow said he heard "a little" about all the jokes by the RiverDogs during the Fireflies' visit last weekend that drew the ire of some fans and Mets' brass as mocking his Christian faith.
When he visited Charleston earlier this month, the RiverDogs, the New York Yankees' Class A affiliate, had a few jokes waiting for him.
Most notably, Charlie, the RiverDogs’ mascot, could be seen “Tebowing” – a term coined during Tebow’s days at Florida when he would kneel in prayer after touchdowns.
Other antics included: playing the “Hallelujah Chorus” when Tebow came to bat and displaying on the big video screen a picture of Tebow crying after Florida’s loss to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship.
The RiverDogs apologized on the same day the Mets called their antics "very minor league."
On Sunday, Tebow said he accepted the team's apology.
"If they did some silly things, I didn't worry about it," he said.
Andy Shain and Brooks Brunson contributed to this report.