Conforto expected to make his mark

• Mets think former Beavers star will move up quickly

By Matt Ehalt / The (Hackensack, N.J.) Record

Published Jun 9, 2014 at 12:01AM

Destined for stardom?

Michael Conforto has drawn comparisons to another former Oregon State star drafted in the first round — Madras High graduate Jacoby Ellsbury, now with the New York Yankees. Here’s how the two stacked up in their three years playing with the Beavers.

Conforto Ellsbury

182 Games 160

44 Doubles 37

4 Triples 8

31 Home runs 16

179 RBIs 101

11 Stolen bases 60

.340 Batting average .365

.463 On-base pct. .464

.557 Slugging pct. .522

SAN FRANCISCO — The baseball complex that hosts the Redmond (Wash.) High baseball team is set up in such a way that the high school field is on a lower level, while the Little League fields are on an elevated plane in right field.

A handful of years back, the high school team was told it could no longer take batting practice while Little League games went on.

Not as long as Michael Conforto was around.

“He could reach those fields,” Redmond coach Dan Pudwill said in a telephone interview. “We never had kids before or since that could reach those fields up in right field. We had to put shaggers and fliers up there in order to protect the Little Leaguers.”

From playing in the Little League World Series to his standout career at Oregon State, Conforto has always been on a path to baseball stardom.

It’s one that may take him to New York after the Mets selected the left fielder 10th in the MLB draft.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise,” said former Redmond football coach Jeff Chandler, who coached Conforto. “I think it would have been a disappointment if he wouldn’t have been (a first-round pick).”

In high school, Conforto excelled as a two-sport athlete, eliciting interest in both sports from all the major players in the then-Pac-10 conference.

On the gridiron, he played quarterback and safety, elevating a team not stocked with talent. Chandler remembers a season-ending game against Ballard High when Conforto wouldn’t let the Mustangs lose, running over opposing players in an eventual win.

“I’ve never seen a player have more impact on a game than him,” Chandler said. “He could take over the game.”

On the diamond, Conforto played third base his sophomore year before switching to shortstop for his junior and senior seasons. He developed a reputation for hitting monstrous homers, blasts landing in parking lots 400 feet away.

That prep prowess earned Conforto a scholarship to Oregon State, where he made his mark almost immediately. He finished his freshman year with 13 homers and 76 RBI, leading the Pac-12 in RBIs and tying for the most homers.

“That just tells you that from start to finish this guy had a fabulous career,” Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. “I really believe this guy is going to move through that system.”

Under Casey’s tutelage, Conforto made the successful switch from the infield to the outfield. While he played infield positions for Redmond, Casey and his staff knew Conforto would not project as a middle infielder at the next level.

When he arrived in Corvallis, Conforto was about 6 feet 2 and 197 pounds.

The plan was to bulk him up and add power, and as he leaves college a year early, Conforto is now weighing 217. Casey said Conforto had more outfield assists than any player in program history, and made big strides defensively during his three years.

Conforto won the Pac-12 Player of the Year award twice, and will be remembered as one of the best to play for the elite Beavers program. He’ll be mentioned in the same sentence as another New York star: Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

“He’s a lot like Ellsbury with his demeanor, but they both carry a big stick,” Casey said. “Both those guys are to me the kind of people you want representing you off the field and I couldn’t be happier for (Conforto) and his family. It’s well deserved.”

He added: “He’s got the ‘it’ factor.”

In the first three drafts overseen by Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, the team opted for a prep player with their first pick, going with youth over experience.

This year, the opportunity to add a polished college bat like Conforto was too enticing to pass on, and the Mets pounced. Mets VP of player development and amateur scouting Paul DePodesta said the Mets were “absolutely thrilled” with the pick.

“We think he’s an advanced hitter,” DePodesta said.

“He has a chance to move quicker than the high school players we’ve taken the last few years.”

In good company

Of the 12 first-round picks from an Oregon school, nine have made the big leagues.

Pick Year Name School Team Highest level

1 1972 Dave Roberts Oregon Padres MLB (10 years)

3 1980 Ken Dayley Portland Braves MLB (11 years)

3 1966 Wayne Twitchell Wilson HS Astros MLB (10 years)

5 1974 Dale Murphy Wilson HS Braves MLB (18 years)

10 2014 Michael Conforto* Oregon State Mets ???

16 1977 Wally Backman Aloha HS Mets MLB (14 years)

16 1994 Matt Smith Grants Pass HS Royals AA

17 1974 Cliff Speck Beaverton HS Mets MLB (1 year)

17 1993 Scott Christman Oregon State White Sox AA

19 1981 Steve Lyons Oregon State Red Sox MLB (9 years)

19 1972 Rob Dressler Madison HS Giants MLB (5 years)

20 2011 Tyler Anderson* Oregon Rockies AA

23 2005 Jacoby Ellsbury* Oregon State Red Sox MLB (8 years)

* Still active