Michael Conforto will never forget his first game at Marlins Park. Mets manager Terry Collins had his new rookie in the starting lineup. Batting seventh, Conforto stepped to the plate in the second inning with two men on base and he promptly deposited a 3-1 fastball deep in the right field bleachers.
“That ball was crushed,” Collins told the media after the game.
By the end of the night, Conforto collected another hit, a walk and scored three runs in a 12-1 romp over the Miami Marlins, pushing the Mets into sole possession of first place, a spot that’s Mets held onto throughout the rest of the season.
Conforto will be the only New York Mets player to make the 2017 National League roster for next Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Miami. It’s kind of a big deal, considering he almost didn’t make the Mets Opening Day roster.
“Obviously last year was a learning experience … something I had to go through,” Conforto said. “I look at it as part of my journey. You have to let it fuel your fire, which is definitely something it did for me.”
After a fast start in 2016, Conforto fell into a slump. The more he scuffled, the deeper the funk Conforto fell into. Conforto confessed he was trying too hard. As the failures continued to pile up, Conforto’s confidence plummeted and his struggle turned mental.
“You hit a slump and things start snowballing,” he told Oregon Live. “It’s how you work your way out of it. It was part of the process of understanding what it means to be an everyday big league player.”
By June, the Mets had seen enough. Conforto was sent back to Las Vegas to clear his head and work on his swing.
“I think it helped me realize what I needed to do to get better,” he said. “I wanted to turn it into a positive. If you look at it it looks like something that could be negative. I came back this year and learned a lot from it.”
Despite his struggles last season, Conforto has no regrets of how things have played out. He now views those struggles as a part of the major league experience and doesn’t think he would be having the success he’s enjoying now if he didn’t have to go back to the drawing board.
Next week Conforto will return to Miami as a National League All-Star. He is batting .285/.405/.548 with 14 home runs; with runners in scoring position, Conforto is batting .356 this season and he has settled in to the lead off spot in the Mets lineup.