Michael Conforto, who hit two home runs for the Mets Friday in his return to Seattle, is having one of the best seasons for an in-state product, but he’s not the only who’s been productive.
Sitting in the visitor’s dugout, clad in the royal blue and orange of the New York Mets and surrounded by reporters asking about his return to the Pacific Northwest, Michael Conforto couldn’t help but smile as he reminisced about the first time he stepped onto the wondrous playing surface of Safeco Field.
He was 16 and a precocious baseball prospect at Redmond High School, standing amid a passel of other players his age to compete in a showcase for scouts.
“It looked so big,” he said. “I thought it was huge. Now, it looks kind of small.”
Conforto made it look really small on Friday night. With more than 30 family members and friends in attendance, he blasted a pair of homers in the Mets’ 7-5 win over the Mariners.
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He hit homer No. 20 on the season off a fastball from lefty Ariel Miranda to lead off the third inning, giving the Mets a 3-0 lead. With his team down a run in the eighth, he tied the game with a leadoff homer off lefty specialist Marc Rzepczynski.
“The last time I was here on the field, I was 16 years old and taking batting practice and wasn’t getting anywhere close to hitting balls out of this park,” Conforto told reporters postgame. “Now it feels a little smaller; so it definitely was surreal.”
It was Conforto’s fourth multihomer game of the season and his 21 homers are a career high. Since the All-Star break, he’s batting .317 with a .984 on-base plus slugging percentage, seven homers, 13 RBI.
Growing up in the area, Conforto was like so many other kids his age, imitating Ken Griffey Jr.’s swing, marveling at the hits and speed of Ichiro and admiring the consistency of Edgar Martinez.
“This is the place where I kind of fell in love with the game,” he said. “I grew up coming to the stadium and watching those classic Mariners teams, the ’01 team and so many teams along the way. I was a huge fan of these guys. So for me to be able to come back here and play in an MLB uniform is pretty awesome.”
The Seattle area and the state of Washington has produced a fair amount of professional baseball players, with several playing in the big leagues. But it’s smaller when compared to places such as Texas or California. And for the few lucky enough to return and play at Safeco Field, it is something that will never get old.
“It’s a little more special here,” Conforto said. “It’s a dream come true for me to be able to play out here, let alone hit two home runs and get a comeback win. It was a really fun game just all around. Just a great experience for me.”
Other local players to play in the big leagues in 2017 (stats going into Saturday’s games):
Jake Lamb, 3B, Diamondbacks
A deserved All-Star in 2017, the Bishop Blanchet product is hitting .265 with a .907 OPS, 20 doubles, four triples, 23 homers and 80 RBI.
Steven Souza, OF, Rays
He’s battled some nagging injuries, but producing on a surprising Rays team. The Cascade standout is hitting .268 with an .873 OPS, 16 doubles, 21 homers and 63 RBI in 98 games.
Jason Hammel, RHP, Royals
Born in South Carolina, but raised in Port Orchard, the South Kitsap standout is 4-8 with a 4.81 ERA in 20 starts for the Royals this season.
Keone Kela, RHP, Rangers
The Chief Sealth grad, who was drafted out of Everett Community College, is one of Texas’ best relievers. In 32 games, he’s 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 321/3 innings.
Andrew Kittredge, RHP, Rays
Kittredge, a Spokane native and former UW standout, pitched in the Class AAA All-Star Game in Tacoma and was then called up to make his MLB debut. He’s appeared in four games.
Tony Barnette, RHP, Rangers
The Alaska native had a stellar career at Thomas Jefferson High and resurrected his career in Japan becoming a reliable arm in the Rangers’ bullpen. This season he’s made 28 appearances, posting a 5.35 ERA.
Jon Lester, LHP, Cubs
The veteran lefty helped lead the Cubs to their first World Series win in 108 years in 2016. This year, the Bellarmine Prep grad is trying get them back there. He’s 8-6 with a 3.88 ERA in 22 starts.
Blake Snell, LHP, Rays
After a brilliant debut in 2016, the Shoreline native has struggled this season, going 0-6 with a 4.86 ERA in 12 starts.
Adam Conley, LHP, Marlins
Miami has bounced the Olympia High and WSU standout around this season. He’s 3-3 with a 5.62 ERA in eight starts and a relief appearance. But with the Marlins in sell mode, he should be a regular in the rotation.
Matt Boyd, LHP, Tigers
A standout at Eastside Catholic and Oregon State, Boyd made 13 starts for Detroit this season, posting a 4-5 record wit a 5.48 ERA. After being sent down to Class AAA to work on his secondary pitches, he was recently called back up to the big leagues.
Blaine Hardy, LHP, Tigers
Unfortunately for the Edmonds-Woodway grad, Boyd’s promotion meant he was optioned back to Class AAA Toledo. He made 23 relief appearances, posting a 1-0 record and a 6.05 ERA.
Ian Parmley, OF, Blue Jays
The Monroe grad made his big-league debut this season, appearing in four games for the Blue Jays. He was designated for assignment on July 1, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Class AAA Buffalo
Eric O’Flaherty, LHP, Braves
The veteran lefty and Walla Walla native was recently released by Atlanta. He’d made 22 appearances this season, posting a 7.85 ERA. He was struggling with shoulder issues.
Tyler Olson, LHP, Indians
Just called up a week ago, the Spokane native and Gonzaga alum has made two appearances with the Indians this season, pitching one total inning.