SEATTLE -- When Michael Conforto first stepped onto the Safeco Field grass at 16 years old, the stadium seemed enormous. The retractable roof felt "sky high" to Conforto, who was there to participate in an amateur showcase. The shadows of his idols loomed large.Perspective returned when Conforto arrived back at
SEATTLE -- When Michael Conforto first stepped onto the Safeco Field grass at 16 years old, the stadium seemed enormous. The retractable roof felt "sky high" to Conforto, who was there to participate in an amateur showcase. The shadows of his idols loomed large.
Perspective returned when Conforto arrived back at Safeco on Friday, shrinking it into his personal launching pad. With dozens of his closest friends and family in attendance for his first game in Washington state since college, Conforto hit two home runs -- including a game-tying solo shot off lefty Marc Rzepczynski in the eighth -- in a 7-5 Mets win over the Mariners.
"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 get two home runs and get a comeback win tonight. It was a really fun game all around. It's just a great experience."
Leading off the eighth in a tie game against Rzepczynski, Conforto lined a 92-mph sinker over the right-field fence to send a sizable contingent of his backers into hysterics. Conforto finished 2-for-5 in front of his fans, also leading off the third inning with a homer to give the Mets a 3-1 lead. As he rounded the bases after each blast, Conforto said, he saw familiar faces in the stands behind third base.
"It's a little surreal," said Conforto, who now has five career multihomer games, including Game 4 of the 2015 World Series. "Just people who have helped me along the way -- coaches, teachers, people from my hometown -- that's kind of the coolest part is everyone coming to see me and supporting me. It doesn't get any better than that."
Growing up a 20-minute drive east of downtown Seattle in Redmond, Conforto regularly attended Mariners games at the park. He idolized Ken Griffey Jr. and tried to mimic the Hall of Famer's left-handed swing. He fell hard for Ichiro Suzuki and the 2001 team that won a Major League-record 116 games.
"This is the place where I kind of fell in love with the game," Conforto said Friday afternoon, sitting in Safeco's visiting dugout as local media members clustered around him. "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."
Conforto left about 30 tickets for friends and family, but expected plenty of others to make the short trip across Lake Washington to see him play. Starting in center field, Conforto spent most of the game listening to shouts, cheers and sarcastic remarks to rain down from his friends in the stands.
"I can't repeat most of it," he laughed.
Though Conforto's heart belongs to the Mets these days, there is still plenty for him to appreciate in Seattle. During the All-Star Game earlier this month, Conforto said he was at the team hotel when Robinson Cano -- another sweet-swinging Mariner on a Hall of Fame arc -- broke away from his family to introduce himself.
"I didn't think he would know who I was," Conforto said. "But he went out of his way to say hi to me and tell me congratulations, and that was a pretty cool moment for me. I'm a big admirer of him."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.