Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Michael Conforto, crossover star?
OK, that's a stretch. But his college baseball coach, Pat Casey, jokes that Conforto is so tough that "if you gave him a football helmet, he could play for the New York Jets."
Asked to reveal something that Mets fans might not know about the slugger, Casey, the former Oregon State coach, said "He was one helluva football player" in high school. Conforto was a running back and linebacker, Casey said.
"Michael has an unbelievable, funny personality, but he's also tougher than hell.
"The biggest critic on him in football was his dad, because his dad was a linebacker at Penn State," Casey added, referring to Conforto's dad, Mike, who played for the Nittany Lions in the late 1970s. Conforto's mom, Tracie, is probably the best athlete in the family - she won both Olympic gold and silver medals in synchronized swimming in the 1980s.
Casey, who retired last year as the Oregon State coach after 31 years, 900 career victories, and three national championships, was part of MLB Network's coverage of the MLB Draft Monday at the MLB Network studios in New Jersey.
Casey recruited Adley Rutschman, the first overall pick in tonight's Draft by the Orioles, to Oregon State. Casey has 21 players who have appeared in the Majors.
Conforto is certainly one of the prizes. Casey says they still keep in touch.
"Absolutely," the coach said. "That group was so tight they'll come back to Corvallis and hang out once in a while. They go to Mexico together in the offseason, him and some of the other guys from that team."
Every time Conforto homers for the Mets, "my son calls me in to watch it on the computer," Casey said.
When Conforto first arrived on campus at Oregon State, he was a shortstop. But Casey knew that moving him to the outfield was a wiser path.
"He had been a shortstop in high school and played some third base as well," Casey said. "He was a natural to move to a place where he could just focus on becoming an offensive force."
Now Casey is hoping for even bigger things from Conforto with the Mets.
"I see the unbelievable amount of passion he's got for what he's doing," Casey said. "I think he's going to be a long-time big leaguer. Just got to keep him healthy and he'll be just fine…I see he's taking on more of a role of being a leader.
"I think he's going to be in that clubhouse for a long time."