For Michael Conforto, preparing for the grueling 162-game baseball season starts the minute a championship team is crowned.
The 25-year-old Mets outfielder observed the traditional ballgame changing since he grew up watching the sport. Instead of looking at the offseason as time to relax on the couch and stack up on holiday food, players are in the gym and focusing on the year ahead. Conforto is no exception.
"The offseason is big time for players these days," Conforto said. "You know, everybody is preparing in the offseason, everyone's getting their work in. For me, especially after last year, understanding what the offseason can do for you going into Spring Training and then into the early parts of the season, it's going to be big for me."
Conforto said he's excited to get his feet wet in Spring Training games and work on his goals for the season. He has high expectations for New York after adding a new GM in Brodie Van Wagenan and injecting the staff with elite players. The Mets needed a push after ending the 2018 campaign on a 77-85 record -- despite the hot start they had in April. Conforto said Van Wagenan is instilling a new formula for determination in the team.
"We love the enthusiasm, the energy that [Van Wagenan] brings," Conforto said. "It's exciting that he's bringing in some new players, especially the names that he's brought in. He's kind of inspiring confidence in us, so I think that's always a good thing. You always want confidence from the top all the way through the organization. So, us as players, we're definitely feeling it and we're excited to go."
Right-handed pitcher and teammate Zack Wheeler echoed Conforto's sentiments in that he hopes to flush out the offseason jitters during Spring Training. After being out for two years due to recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2015-16, Wheeler is slowly on the mend and has the opportunity to break out in 2019.
Wheeler capped last season on a 12-7 record across 29 starts with a 3.31 ERA and 179 strikeouts. He showed signs of control and improvement in 2018 and is familiar with the work he needs to do in order to stay healthy for the year.
"You know what you need to do to stay healthy, and I think it was just unfortunate stuff that happened," Wheeler said. "Had the Tommy John [surgery], out for two years, and then the stress reaction in the arm. Really couldn't help that, but there is stuff that you can help. You make sure that do the weight room, throwing-wise in the offseason. Just prepare yourself the best that you can."
Van Wagenan's dominant message heading into the season has had a ripple effect across the club. If the new GM had only one plan with the Mets -- and it was to create a clear vision for New York to capture its goal -- Van Wagenan is already showing successful results.
"Everybody's added a few guys here and there and I think it's one of the better divisions, if not the best in all of baseball," Wheeler said.