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At Futures Game, Mets' Michael Conforto understands future can wait

NEW YORK -- New York Mets first-round pick Michael Conforto will start in left field for the U.S. squad in Sunday’s 3 p.m. ET Futures Game. Mets fans want him to head directly from the Cincinnati event to the majors. Yet the 22-year-old Conforto insisted Sunday that he understands the value of extra development time.

Both Conforto and fellow Futures Game participant Brandon Nimmo will return to the B-Mets after their participation in the prospect showcase.

Conforto, promoted from Class A St. Lucie in late May, is hitting .312 with three homers and 21 RBIs in 141 at-bats with the B-Mets.

“My dad and I have had conversations about it,” Conforto said on Sunday morning in Cincinnati, referring to extra development time. “Whether it be coaches, players, anybody, we all understand that I’m in a great position. People are talking about me. There’s opportunities out there. Maybe they’re not the best for me as a player. Maybe they’re not the best for the Mets as a team at this point. All I can do is just try to be ready. Just try to be ready. And I feel like I am.

“But you can always be more ready. I can always go out there and learn more. I can always get better in the outfield, on the bases. I can learn more. I can see more pitches. I can see different arm angles. Every day I go out there I see something different and I learn something new. Every day I’m in the minor leagues I’m getting better.”

Conforto, the 10th overall pick in 2014 after earning Pac-12 player of the year honors at Oregon State, suggested he also sees value in playing for Triple-A Las Vegas at some point rather than jumping directly to the majors from Binghamton.

“I think there’s definitely value to Triple-A,” Conforto said. “It’s another level up. It’s another group of pitching. I’ve heard there’s different approaches by those pitchers. I was talking to some of the guys in Triple-A here [at the Futures Game]. They said there’s a lot more offspeed. You might get to a hitter’s count, 3-1, and you might see a curveball or a changeup. I mean, you see that in Double-A. But it seems like it’s a little bit more consistent there.”

Conforto has experienced little in the way of hiccups since joining the Mets organization.

Asked what he has observed with the increased competition in the Eastern League, he said: “The higher you go up, the more strikes they throw, the more consistent they can put the ball where it’s tough for hitters to hit. ... There’s pitchers that do that very well in Double-A, and obviously when go up to Triple-A. You see it in the big leagues. Guys control the entire zone. I’ve seen the consistency go up.

“It’s the same thing with hitters. As you go up, the guys who can’t lay off of those pitches, or who don’t have the discipline, they start to wither out, or maybe they need more time to develop.

"That’s the biggest thing for me. When I’m not going good, it’s usually because of my decisions on which pitches to swing on. It’s not so much a mechanical thing. So that tells me maybe I’m getting anxious or maybe I’m doing something I shouldn’t. It also tells me that the pitchers are more consistent. ...

“I guess I’ve always had a natural ability to put the barrel on the ball. Maybe it’s hand-eye coordination or whatever. When I went to college, things really got ironed out. I was taken in by a great group of coaches there at Oregon State, and they molded me mechanically. But a lot of it was mental. I just needed to learn more about the game and be more prepared out there at the plate in every situation.

"I’ve had success at every level, but I’ve also experienced some failure. I’ve had to pick myself back up at every level and kind of find my way back after a bit of a rough patch. And those are always good learning experiences. I think you need to fail to move forward. That’s something my dad always told me. He said without struggle there’s no strength. That’s something I’ve carried with me through high school, through college and now my pro career.”

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Conforto hails from Woodinville, Washington. His father, Mike, played linebacker at Penn State under Joe Paterno. His mother, Tracie Ruiz-Conforto, won two gold medals in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles in synchronized swimming, then a silver four years later in Seoul, South Korea.

Conforto -- a prep quarterback and safety -- was recruited to play college football and baseball by some Division I schools and to play football only at Ivy League schools. He went exclusively into baseball in part because of the physical toll football took on his father.

Conforto advocates playing multiple sports in high school. He suggested he would have played basketball, too, but he was “bad” at the sport.

“I think my mom, she obviously was in a different type of sport, but she knew how hard you needed to work to become the best in the world at something that you wanted to do and something you enjoyed,” Conforto said. “She always preached that to me. She always said she wasn’t the most talented, but she worked the hardest. She obsessed over it. That’s what she does now. She’s golfing. She’s doing all kinds of stuff. She’s obsessing over all kinds of things. She always told me you need to obsess about the sport that you’re playing and what you want to do. So I’ve taken that with me.

“My dad is a competitive guy. He was my football coach. He wasn’t afraid to get in my face, but he always built me back up in the best way. He’s lit a fire under me a few times when I needed it. So I’m happy to still have him as a role model and as a coach today.”