Time flies. Doesn’t it?
It seems like just yesterday, Michael Conforto was this fresh face kid the Mets called up in 2015 out of desperation. Just a year in the minors and it was hoped that he would help turn around the club’s hitting woes.
And boy did he help. Along with the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes a week later, the reinforced Mets became the hottest team in baseball, all the way to the World Series.
That was five years ago and Conforto is the grizzled veteran on the club. In fact, outside of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, no Met has longer consecutive service with the club than the 27 year-old right fielder.
And that’s why he became the player rep for the club, a job that was once pretty easy, but this year became extremely difficult.
“It was an experience — I have never been involved with any of that bargaining-type stuff,” Conforto said Saturday at Zoom conference at Citi Field. “It was stressful at times. It was frustrating at times.”
But those negotiations are past him and now, Conforto is looking forward to the season. Fully healthy from the oblique strain he suffered in March, now he is looking to stay safe from the virus and also prevent any other injuries as the Mets are looking towards opening day in 20 days.
And part of that involves the social distancing protocols, which he feels are above and beyond at Citi Field from the MLB mandates.
“As far as (general manager) Brodie (Van Wagenen) being around to remind us six feet apart, he likes us to stay more like 10 feet apart, making every effort to not have a point-of-contact type thing,” Conforto said. “It’s been real crazy, but it’s encouraging. We’re starting to see how we can make this thing work, we can still get our work in and we’ve got to be responsible, we have got to make sure that we follow the rules and also get our work in at the same time.”
The Mets have been fortunate that no one has come down with the virus. Players like the Yankees DJ LeMahieu and the Braves Freddie Freeman were tested positive and are now quarantining, meaning they may not be ready for opening day.
“I did see some big names in there,” Conforto said. “Anybody in our family who gets it, we feel terrible for, but it’s kind of coming down to this is a big part of the season where the healthier the team can stay it really increases your chances of winning games when we do get to the season. We have to be real vigilant and responsible to make sure we have all our guys out there when the time comes.”
And that may be the biggest story this season. It’s not just the team that avoids injuries, but also remains the cleanest when it comes to the virus.
Having that understanding is the first step to a successful season that hopefully ends the same way as it did in 2015 for his Mets with a World Series appearance.