Holding up the baseball just autographed by his hero Tim Tebow, 16-year-old Noah Engelhard beamed like he had just homered with the bases jammed.
“Tim Tebow will always, always, always be my favorite player,” said the Davie resident, posing for a quick photo before running off between the seats Friday night at Roger Dean Stadium to show his treasure to his pals.
Fans waited in four lines each about 60 deep to get into the Abacoa park to watch the former University of Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner play left field for the St. Lucie Mets against the Jupiter Hammerheads.
Orange and blue number 15 Tebow T-shirts were more common than hot dogs as dozens of fans lined up along first base for a pre-game autograph.
Tebow, 29, was playing in the first of four games scheduled at the 7,000-seat Jupiter stadium. His appearance is expected to draw an extra 2,500 fans per game, said Roger Dean General Manager Mike Bauer.
Wearing a blue and yellow shirt from the Columbia, South Carolina Fireflies with Tebow’s name on the back — Tebow played there before he was promoted to the Mets — Pat Brace said he wasn’t surprised at the big turnout.
“People admire Tebow because he has the nerve to try. And he’s nice to everyone. That’s a message that resonates. It’s a message we all need to hear,” said the 38-year-old construction worker who lives in Juno Beach.
Outside the stadium before the game, 77-year-old Lorrie Williamson said Tebow’s charisma brought her out. A mother of three boys, baseball has always been a part of her life.
“I had to come out and see (Tebow) play. He’s a star. And he seems like such a nice guy,” said the Jupiter resident.
A grand-slam cheer went up when a smiling Tebow walked over to the fans to sign autographs before the 6:30 game. Fans held out photos, footballs, programs, gloves and baseball cards, hoping to be chosen.
“(Tebow) is going after his dreams. He keeps pushing. He doesn’t back down. I admire that,” said Mike Dolan, 31, a Jupiter resident who owns an auto detailing business.