(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
PORT ST. LUCIE, FL – When Wilmer Flores watched strike three from Wade Davis to make the final out of the World Series, a dejected Michael Conforto on second base started taking a few steps towards the dugout as the victorious Kansas City Royals charged the mound.
More than any other Met, the 23 year-old outfielder had the firsthand look on that moment and what it meant going into this season.
“Obviously there are feelings of being upset,” he said. “You are so close. It’s obviously was an incredible ride and there were good things and I was happy about that, but it’s hard to lose the World Series championship when you are that close. We had leads in so many of those games and opportunities to win those games, so it’s definitely motivation. I was out there when the final out came and had to walk by them when they celebrated. I think it is motivation.”
So close, yet so far. Conforto and his teammates know it. Last year was a learning experience for the young outfielder. He came up at the end of July and stuck on the team, even after the Mets made some major acquisitions.
In the long term, the education he got in 2015 will benefit him greatly.
“It’s a crazy long season,” he said. “It’s easy to think one or two games do not matter but when you get down to the season – and I was there for the playoff race – you see how important everything is in the playoffs. A loss can really put you behind. I saw those things and anywhere else and being in those situations I got experience that I couldn’t get anywhere else. And being in those situations, I was able to gain some confidence playing in big games and I can be comfortable and control myself in those situations playing in the playoffs and World Series.”
Educational, but tiring as well, since he never played that many games over a course of a year. After the World Series was over, he had to take some time off before getting back in the swing of things.
“I definitely took two or three weeks off and started to move,” Conforto said. “I got in the cage around December and I started lifting around the same time. I took a chunk of time to let the body heal and reset. I never played in the upward of 180 games in a year. But I felt good because when I got called up to the big leagues, your body refreshes so I didn’t feel too tired at the end of the year.”
Conforto is entering his first Spring Training as a big leaguer, not worrying about his spot on the roster. This year is a little different as he wants to build upon a year where he hit .270 with nine homers and 26 RBI in 176 at bats.
“I am working on a lot of different things,” Conforto said. “I’m not specializing on one thing. I think I need to be an overall better player and a better outfielder. Obviously there are things at the plate I need to be more comfortable with, so I’m working on everything. When I get into the cage my mind is on one place and I will specialize when I’m working on stuff.”
That beautiful swing of his is obviously his moneymaker. He goes with the flow and is able to take the itch to all fields. It’s something he learned over time and is always looking to enhance it one way or another.
“Your swing is just the product of a lot of repetition and a lot of swings,” he said. “It’s part of you. I wouldn’t say I go up there looking to hit the ball the other way, but I try to hit it where it’s pitched and most effective for me to hit the ball hard somewhere. When I’m going well, I’m hitting the ball to all fields.”
Part of that is adjusting to the majors. Pitchers will quickly adapt to a hitter and the book on a playerwill spread, not just game to game, but inning to inning and Conforto is no exception.
“The adjustment that was made against me was that they started to come in on me hard,” Conforto said. “I had some success on fastballs away and was laying off on some off-speed stuff, so you change where you are looking. And maybe some little adjustments inside to be sure I’m not closing myself off on my front foot. I’m trying to work on it this year. This is the difference between the minors and majors. They can work on it in game as opposed to over the course of a season. We have to be as good as they are in adjusting.”
If he does, Conforto will continue his success and accomplish the goal of not just getting back to the World Series, but winning it this time.
“That’s our goal,” he said. “It’s going to be a long season and there are going to be some ups and downs. I’m not going to say it will be a disappointed if we don’t make the playoffs. We all will be disappointed if we don’t, but it will be the matter of taking it one day at a time. Put a good finished product out there every single day.”
One day at a time and one at bat at a time. By doing the little things, he will help the Mets this year and maybe he will be on the other side of the celebration when the last out of the World Series is made this November.