A LIFE LED BY BASEBALL
By Sarah Kincart
Every summer, the Cyclones look forward to seeing the new talent that is making their way through the Mets farm system. Players come from different states, schools, and even other countries in hopes of making it to the big leagues. However, almost halfway through this year’s season, the Cyclones welcomed the newest member to the team. This player is not just another midseason transaction. He happens to be the Mets most anxiously anticipated prospect of the season and their First Round Draft pick. Michael Conforto, an outfielder from Oregon State University. Conforto has left his mark at baseball fields around the world, but has now made his way to Brooklyn and is ready to go in full swing.
Raised by parents who were both athletes, it is no surprise Conforto found his passion for sports at a young age. He grew up spending an endless amount of hours at practices and tournaments and looked up to his dad, who was always there to positively critique his son. “All I ever really wanted to do was play sports and my parents were always very supportive of that and always pushed me in that direction. I think they wanted me to do it for the things that sports teach you. If I end up not playing sports for a career for the rest of my life, I’ll have learned a lot of really good things. Baseball definitely clicked, and football was a passion for me, but baseball was the way I was going to go.”
It is definitely apparent that baseball clicked in a special way for this year’s 10th overall draft pick. A lot of kids grow up playing tee ball and little league, before they consider playing at a more advanced level. But even from a young age, Conforto always played amongst the top talent. He says he has “always played baseball and on travel teams, and was named an all star,” as a kid. So, by the time he was 21, Conforto had a baseball resumé most kids and professionals could only dream of. Little League World Series, check. All States in high school, check. College World Series in Omaha, check. College Player of the Year, check. Team USA (twice), check. First round draft pick, check.
With countless memories and experiences over the years from various fields and parks around the world, there are a few that stand out to the Woodinville, Washington native more than others. The first one is The Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
“That was one of the coolest things ever. They close off this area where all of the kids stay and there is free arcade and food whenever we want. At the time, we thought the stadium was massive, but if I saw it now, I probably wouldn’t think it was as big as I once thought it was when I was little. That was cool for me at a young age to be exposed like that, it probably helps me now.”
Conforto also mentioned that he distinctly remembers the games he played with Team USA because he was introduced to different aspects of the game.
“It’s interesting how different countries play the sport. We went to Cuba my freshman year, where there was a slower pace of the game. The pitchers tried to overpower you with fastballs. Japan was quicker paced, a lot more bunting and small ball. They had better command of their pitches and tried to mix pitches up on you. It’s also when I was first introduced to the language barrier in baseball, which probably helped me now, too.”
Conforto says the traveling for baseball has been “pretty cool” and he has learned a lot, but his favorite place to have ever played a game happens to be a place very familiar to one of his current teammates, Tyler Moore.
“I have to say LSU. When I was a freshman, Oregon State went to LSU for a regional. I actually played against Tyler Moore there and that was the craziest atmosphere I’ve ever played in. Playoff baseball in LSU…they are crazy about baseball there, they were really good that year, too. We played a pretty good game against them, but when they scored the game winning run, the stadium…it felt like an earthquake on the field, it was crazy.”
There may be many baseball chapters already in the books for Conforto, but the story won’t end there. The newest chapter has already begun, as he signed his professional contract with the Mets earlier this summer.
“It’s been a whirlwind to say the least. I was just sitting at home, waiting for a call and I ended up getting the call. They (the Mets) said, ‘do you want to go to New York tomorrow?’ So, I went to New York. Two days later, I was with the team and went to LA the next couple of days and it’s been just a crazy time.”
Conforto says the goal is to end up playing at Citi Field and that playing in any big league park is always the dream when you’re growing up. For right now though, he looks forward to the rest of the season and seeing if the Cyclones can make a run for the playoffs and bring a trophy back to Brooklyn.
“Definitely a playoff atmosphere in pro ball is something I’m looking forward to, and to see what’s next. I’ll probably go to Florida for a little while, maybe I’ll be here next year, maybe I’ll be somewhere else, but it’s kinda exciting not to know.”
He may not know exactly where or with what team he will be playing with in the future, but there is one thing for certain as the twenty-one year old progresses through his professional career…he will continue to leave his mark at baseball fields every step of the way.