Feb 28, 2019

2015 N.L. Champion Mets Italian / American Outfielder: Michael Conforto (2015-2019)

Michael Conforto was born on March 1st, 1993 in Woodlinville, Washington. He comes from a family of Athletes as his mother; Tracie Conforto was a two time Olympic Gold medalist (1984 & 1988) in synchronized swimming & his father; Mike played linebacker at Penn. State. His sister Jacqueline was a college soccer player.

In 2004 he played in the Little League World Series for the NorthWest Region. In high school the honor roll student played short stop on the baseball team & was a stand out saftey in football. He was recruited by several Ivy League schools for football  & was also sought after for baseball. He chose to stick with baseball & play at Oregon State.

In his first year he was voted Freshman Hitter of the Year batting .349 with 13 HRs & setting a school record with 76 RBIs. 

In his sophmore year he was named All American, leading his Oregon Beavers to the College World Series, where he went 7-14, getting named to the All Tournament Team. In his off seasons he played for USA Collegiate National teams.

In 2013 he batted .345, named the Pac 12 Player of the Year & was named a first-team All-American. He went into 2014 as the pre season, Sporting News College Player of the Year. 

The six foot one, left hand hitting outfielder, throws right handed. He attended Oregon State University getting drafted by the New York Mets in the first round in 2014 (the #10 pick overall).  

Conforto's pro career began that same year with the Brooklyn Cyclones. That year he led his club in batting (.331) & in HRs (3) while playing in 42 games. He started 2015 with the St. Lucie Mets where he hit .283 with 7 HRs & 28 RBIs in 46 games.

He got promoted to the AA Binghamton Mets in late May where he continued his hot hitting. He batted .312 with 5 HRs & 26 RBIs in 45 games, getting named to play in the 2015 Futures Game.

With the New York Mets struggeling to score runs & an injury to Michael Cuddyer, the team decided to promote Conforto right up to the big league level. At this point in time he was the organizations best hitting prospect. He made his debut in the big leagues on July 24th, 2015 starting in left field and going 0-3 in a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The young man said he got chills as the Citi Field crowd of 36,666 greeted him with a nice ovation. The next night, in his second game he collected four hits, including back to back doubles, two singles & a walk. This made his the fastest Met ever to have a four hit game.

On July 31st when the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes, Conforto was sent back down to the minor leagues to develop his young career. Four days later on August 3rd he was back in the big leagues when Kirk Nieuwenhuis went on the DL. By this time the Mets had now taken over first place. That night he hit his first career HR, in a 12-1 Mets win in Florida as the team took over sole possesion of first place.

Conforto drove in runs the next two nights, including game tying single in the top of the 9th inning at Tampa, as New York came from behind to beat the Rays 4-3. Conforto scored the game winner on Wilmer Flores RBI hit.

He hit his second HR on August 15th & another six days later in a Mets win at Colorado. On August 31st, he brought his average up over .290 and hit his fourth HR helping the Mets in a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field.

In a hot September he was a big contributor to the Mets offense & run at the NL East title. Along with the newly acquired Yoenis Cespedes the Mets outfield all of a sudden had pop & lots of hits out of their spots in the lineup. Conforto, Cespedes and veteran new comers Kelly Johnson & Juan Uribe turned around a Mets team that struggled for hits & runs earlier in the year.

In the first seven days of September he hit two HRs & drove in five runs in five games he played in. On September 13th toward the end of the Mets eight game win streak, he hit a two run HR in a 10-7 win & sweep of a series against the Braves in Atlanta.

On September 21st, he hit another HR against the Braves helping Jon Niese & the bullpen in a 4-0 shut out at Citi.

Since his arrival in August Conforto would have 13 multi hit games, hit 9 HRs with 23 RBIs. In a total of 56 games, he had 47 hits batting .270 with 9 HRs 14 doubles & 26 RBIs. He played primarily in left field making six assists with a 1.000 fielding %.

2015 NLDS: Conforto got the start in left field at Dodger Stadium, in the Mets first post season game in nine years, batting 7th as the Mets faced the Dodgers in Game #1 of the NLDS.

In the 2nd inning, three batters after Yoenis Cespedes hit a HR, Conforto followed with a HR of his own, both coming off Zack Greinke. Conforto did not get any more hits in the NLDS or in the NLCS sweep of the Chicago Cubs.

2015 World Series: Michael Conforto was thrilled to be playing the World Series, having been in the minor leagues just two months before & playing College ball just a year earlier.

On October 27th, in Game #1 of the World Series, Conforto hit a 6th inning sac fly off Edinson Volquez driving in Yoenis Cespedes for the Mets second run.

In Game #3 at Citi Field, the game in which the Mets won 9-3 behind Noah Syndergaard, Conforto hit a 4th inning double driving in Lucas Duda with the Mets fifth run.

 In the Mets Game #4 heartbreaking loss, the game was highlighted by Confoto's two HRs, in the 3rd & 5th innings. Conforto also had two hits in the final 5th Game at Citi Field.   

Overall in the World Series, Conforto led the Mets in batting .333 (for batters with more than two at bats) and was one of four Mets to have five hits. He was second in HRs (2) & RBIs (4) in the Series for the Mets as well. 

Overall in 12 post season games, he had two six hits (6-30) batting .200 with 3 HRs & 6 RBIs.

Trivia: Conforto  became the third player in MLB history to have played in the Little League World Series, College World Series & MLB World Series.

2016: The 2016 season, started out well for Conforto as he finished April batting .365 4 HRs & 18 RBIs. On April 8th he had a three RBI day on a 7-2 Mets win over the Phillies at Citi Field. In mid April he drove in three runs with a HR as the Mets took two of three  in Cleveland against the eventual AL Champions.

On April 24th he drove in two runs in the Mets 3-2 win at Atlanta over the Braves. In a six game stretch from April 24th to April 30th he drove in ten runs during an eight game hit streak where he collected 15 hits. 

His average fell to below .300 by mid May until he had another hot streak. He would hit a HR on May7th, then hit safely in nine of eleven games. On May 17th, he hit a solo HR off Max Scherzer, in a 2-0 Mets win over the Washington Nats. On May 20th, he hit another solo HR, this one against the Milwaukee Brewers in a 3-2 Mets win.

Things weren't going well at the plate for Conforto, but there were a few highlights. On June 4th, his 8th inning hit off David Phelps in Miami put the Mets ahead in a 6-4 win. On June 8th in Pittsburgh, he drove in three runs including a game tying HR to help the Mets in a 6-5 win over the Pirates. At Citi Field he would hit another HR against the Pirates a week later.

From May 24th to June 24th, he had just eight hits in 84 plate appearances in 25 games, as his average plummeted to .222. On June 24th & he was sent down to AA Las Vegas as the Mets called up Brandon Nimmo, one of the teams top prospects. 

He returned in mid July & began to play in right & center field as well as his usual left. He was used mostly as a reserve than as a starter, without the Mets giving him an everyday chance it may have affected his play even more so.

On August 7th, he hit his first HR in nearly two months in a 3-1 win at Detroit. During the September pennant stretch, he had a two RBI game on September 18th against the Milwaukee Brewers in a 3-2 win. 

On September 23rd he hit a HR with three RBIs & two hits  in a 10-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Overall in a disappointing 2016 season, he hit .220, struggling mightily against lefties,with 12 HRs 21 doubles & 42 RBIs.

In the off season , the Mets resigned Yoenis Cespedes & could not shop Jay Bruce in the trade market as expected. That left Confoto's future uncertain. 

2017: As 2017 began, Conforto lost his starting role & was penciled in as the fourth outfielder. But a hot April had him batting .321 with 6 HRs 13 RBIs in the month. From April 9th to the 15th, he drove in runs in five of six games with a pair of HRs. On April 29th he hit two HRs & carried the Mets to a 5-3 win over the Nats in D.C.

 In May he regained his starting role as he hit seven more HRs & drove in 21 runs. From May 14th to the 25th, he hit five HRs including two in a May 23rd win over the San Diego Padres. In that game he had four RBIs in the 9-3 Mets win at Citi Field. 

As the Mets suffered injuries, Conforto became the teams best player, at the break after 70 games, he was hitting .284 with 14 HRs & 41 RBIs. He was named as the Mets only representative at the All Star Game in Miami. In the NL's 2-1 loss, Conforto got two at bats collecting a base hit.

He would match his season high four RBI game high twice, once in a July 14th, 14-2 Mets win over the Rockies & again on July 21st. In that game, at Citi Field in a Mets 7-5 win over the Oakland A's, he had one of his three multi HR games.

On August 24th, he injured himself while swinging  at a pitch and tore his shoulder. He missed the remained of the season & opted to get the surgery. 

He ended 2017 with 27 HRs & 68 RBIs (both second on the club to Jay Bruce). He had 104 hits with 20 doubles 57 walks 113 Ks & a .384 on base % in 109 games. 

In the outfield he posted a .984 fielding % with five assists. 52 games in left, 43 in center & 11 in right.

2018: To start out the 2018 season, he played his first game on April 5th in Washington D.C. hitting a HR & driving in two runs, On May 11th his two run HR helped the Mets to a 3-1 win at Philadelphia. 

He hit another HR on May 19th, helping the Mets in a 5-4 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, in a game where Wilmer Flores provided the walk off sac fly RBI. At the same time this week he was struggling just to keep his average over .200.

From July 14th to the 27th, Conforto had a hot streak in as he hit four HRs with a dozen RBIs & a dozen hits. In August he hit HRs in back to back games including one in the Mets subway series win. Later that week he had three hits & a HR in the Mets 24-4 romp over Philadelphia. 

The next day, although the Mets lost, Conforto had three more hits while driving in four runs. On August 28th, he matched that with four more RBIs & another three hit day, in the Mets 6-3 win over the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field.

In September he had his best offensive production of the season, in the first two weeks of the month he hit 6 HRs with 17 hits & 15 RBIs. 

On September 13th, in the second game of a double header, his solo HR off Kyle Barraclough tied the game up at 3-3. Todd Frazier's walk off HR beat the Miami Marlins 4-3, in a n exciting win. 

On September 17th, he had a season high six RBI's carrying the Mets to a 9-4 win. On the day he hit a single, double & a three run HR.

In the Mets poor 2018 season, Conforto led the team in HRs (28) walks (84) RBIs (82) & runs scored (78). He batted .243 with 132 hits  a .350 on base %. His 84 walks were 8th most in the NL & his 159 strike outs 7th most. He spent the most time in left field (84 games) with 58 in center & 12 in right. Overall he had five assists with a .990 fielding %.

Conforto met his girlfriend Heather while at Oregon State University.

He was living on the Upper East side with Noah Syndergaard until 2017 & then got a place of his own. He preferred that as one of the more quieter neighborhoods in Manhattan. 

Michael Conforto's Olympic Gold Medal Winning Mom: Tracie Ruiz Conforto

Tracie Lehuanani Ruiz Conforto was born February 4th 1963 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

She started swimming from the start & soon became a champion. She won the 1979 Team Gold championship at the Pan American Games. Then went on to solo & duet golds at the 1983 Pan American Games. She later won a 1987 Gold there as well.

In 1982 she was a World Champion in solo competition and would win six more from 1981-1986. She also won four titles in duet competition, dominating the sport.

In 1984 at the Summer Olympics held in the United States, at Los Angeles, Tracie was a two time gold medal winner in synchronized swimming, a new addition to Summer Olympics that year. She won the medals in both solo competition & in a duet with Candie Costie.

After a brief stint in body building she returned to swimming in the 1988 Olympics, only competing in solo competition, winning a Silver Medal for the US.

In 1985 she married Michael Anthony Conforto, who had helped her train for the Olympics. Conforto was a line backer at Penn State University in the late seventies. He was more of a back up player on two teams that finished in the Top Five. Conforto's teams played in Gator, Sugar & Fiesta Bowls.

After College he tried out for the Seattle Seahawks but did not make the team. He eventually went partners in opening a gym, where he met his future wife Tracie.

Their son Michael was born in 1993. He has a sister Jaqueline who played soccer at Azusa Pacific University.

Feb 27, 2019

2019 Mets Bench Coach: Jim Riggleman (2019)

James David Riggleman was born November 9th 1952 in Fort Dix, New Jersey. The five foot eleven, right handed hitter played mostly as an infielder. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974, moving over to the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 1976. 

He reached the AAA level by the late seventies but never made it to the big leagues. y 1981 his playing career was over at age 28.

He immediately went to coaching & managing in the Cardinal minor leagues. He moved over to the San Diego Padres minor leagues, getting promoted to the AAA level. By 1993 he was promoted to the Padres big league managerial position, after the departure of Greg Riddoch. In his first season, his Friars finished third, then seventh in 1993. The team improved to fourth place in the strike shortened 1994 season. 

After San Diego, he moved over to the Chicago Cubs managing them for five seasons. His best finish was second in 1998, winning 90 games going 90-73. It was Riggleman who led the Cubs to the 1998 NLDS losing to the Atlanta Braves.

Riggleman went on as bench coach under Jim Tracy with the Los Angles Dodgers from 2001-2004. In 2008 he went to Seattle as bench coach under John McLaren and took over as interim manager in June, through the rest of the season. He was not hires to manage the Mariners in 2009.

He served under former Mets coach, Manny Acta as bench coach of the Washington Nationals  in 2009. When Acta was let go, Riggleman was promoted to manager in his place. His Nats finished fifth in both 2009 & 2010. In 2011 he was looking for the Nats to pick up his option on his contract. He claims they didn't acknowledge his request for a meeting. so on June 23rd he resigned., saying at 58 he was too old to be disrespected.

He then moved on to the Cincinnati Reds organization, managing at the AA level there for two seasons. 

He became the Reds third base coach in 2015 & in 2018 was named the clubs manager. The team went 64-80 finishing fifth. He was not retained for 2019.

The New York Mets hired him as a bench coach under manager Mickey Callaway.

Quotes- Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen: “Jim brings a wealth of experience to the coaching staff. His familiarity with the National League will be a great asset.”

Mets Manager Mickey Callaway: “I’m excited to have Jim’s knowledge alongside me. He’ll be a tremendous resource for me and the entire coaching staff.”

Jim Riggleman: “I look forward to getting started, Getting to Port St Lucie, mixing it up with players and getting to know the coaching staff.  I’m very excited about this opportunity.”

Current Mets Pitching Coach: Dave Eiland (2018-2019)

Dave Eiland was born on July 5th, 1966 in Dade City Florida. The six foot three right hander began his college career with the Florida Gators at the University of Florida. He then transferred to attend the University of South Florida at Tampa. The start pitcher was drafted in the seventh round of the 1987 draft by the A.L. New York club.

Eiland made his MLB debut in Milwaukee on August 3rd 1988 getting a start in a 6-5 loss to the Brewers. He pitched seven innings of three hit ball, allowing a run with no decision. 

Trivia: In that game he made MLB history, being the only player to give up a HR to the first batter he ever faced, then hit a HR in his first at bat. Eiland served up a HR to the his first batter, non other than Hall of Famer, Paul Molitor. Then Eiland himself hit his HR in his very first at bat. It would be his only HR in 22 career at bats.

Eiland would pitch between the minors & the majors for most seasons throughout his career. In 1990 he even won the International Pitcher of the Year Award while with the Columbus Clippers.

He would see limited action over the next four years with the A.L. New York club from 1988-1991 going 5-8 in that time. The journeyman pitcher would go the San Diego Padres (1992-1993) back to New York (1995) & then in Tampa with the Devil Rays from 1998-2000. 

Trivia: In 1998 Eiland acted as a double for actor Kevin Costner in the film For the Love Of The Game.

In a ten year career Eiland was 12-27 with a 5.74 ERA, striking out 153 batters while walking 118 in 373 innings of work in 92 appearances.

Retirement: After his playing days he began his coaching career, starting out in the AL New York clubs organization from 2000-2008. That year he replaced Ron Guidry as the teams pitching coach. In 2010 he took a brief leave of absence & was fired at the end of the year.

After a year in the Tampa organization, he landed the job as pitching coach with the Kansas City Royals. He would get to the World Series twice with his Royals staff under manager Ned Yost.

In 2014 his AL Champion staff was fourth in wins, ERA, runs & walks with the most saves in the AL, behind closer Greg Holland. In 2015 the World Champion Royals beat the NL Champion Mets in the World Series. That year Eiland's staff were first in wins, second in saves & HRs, third in ERA, runs & earned runs.

After two seasons of finishing .500 & lower, he was let go by the Royals. When the New York Mets named Mickey Calloway as their manager for 2018, Eiland got the job as Mets pitching coach, replacing Dan Warthen.

Quotes: “I’ve had other jobs, other opportunities in my career, but I’ve never been more excited than I am now. I don’t think I’ve ever been more ready for this position than I am now. I’m very much looking forward to it. I know the demands of New York. I know the expectations. I know the energy, the passion, and I’m looking forward to getting right back in the middle of that. I want to be held accountable for how this staff pitches. I want those responsibilities. I want those demands. I know how good it is to win there. That’s the driving force.”

An unsuccessful year for the Mets resulted in Eiland's staff coming in eleventh in wins (77) fifth in losses (85) they allowed the second most walks (484)  & were tenth in ERA (4.07). Their best stat was coming in fourth in strike outs (1446).

With an improved bullpen & hopefully a healthy staff, Eiland is expecting a much better 2019.

centerfieldmaz reports from Spring Training 2019- Mets vs Astros

a view from behind home plate @ FITTEAM Ball Park Of the Palm Beaches

Manager Mickey Callaway & the Team Line Up To Honor America

Noah Syndergaard

Michael Conforto

Pete Alonso

Jeff McNeil

Juan Lagares

Dilson Hererra

Gregor Blanco

Keon Broxton

Tomas Nido (C) & Jacob Rhame (P)

Corey Taylor

Danny Espinosa

the crew behind home plate Row 1 & 2

And from the home team Astros:
Jose Altuve
Justin Verlander
George Springer

The Shooting Stars - Astro Girls