Giants' Michael Conforto makes emotional return to Citi Field

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Saturday, July 1, 2023

NEW YORK --Michael Conforto made an emotional return to Citi Field as a visiting player Friday night and held out hope he could play in at least one game for the San Francisco Giants during their weekend series against the New York Mets.

Conforto, sidelined with a left hamstring injury, appeared teary-eyed when the Mets aired a lengthy pregame tribute to the outfielder, who was selected by the team in the first round of the 2014 draft and played for New York from 2015 to 2021.

The video included footage of Conforto meeting with children benefiting from his charity, the Conforto Cares Program, and ended with the words "for the love, for the passion, for the moments, thank you Michael."

"Probably [will] make me a little emotional, looking back at some great moments," Conforto said in the Giants' dugout a couple of hours earlier. "It's the beginning of my professional career. It's where I grew up as a ballplayer and as a young man. Started dating my wife out here. New York, it'll always be a massive part of who I am. So that's a really special thing to me."

Conforto said he enjoyed seeing security guards and clubhouse personnel at Citi Field while marveling at the giant new scoreboard -- measuring 17,400 square feet -- that spans center field. He also said he was recognized by an agent as the Giants, who completed a series in Toronto on Thursday night, went through customs at the airport early Friday morning.

"Just a bunch of New York stuff that only happens out here," Conforto said.

Conforto hit .255 with 132 homers and 396 RBIs in 757 regular-season games for the Mets. As a rookie, he batted .333 with two homers -- both in Game 4 -- of the 2015 World Series against the Kansas City Royals.

Battling an injury as he returned to New York provided a bit of an unwelcome reminder of some of the more challenging parts of his tenure with the Mets. Conforto made the NL All-Star team in 2017, when he hit .279 with 27 homers before sustaining a season-ending left shoulder injury while swinging against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 24 that year.

Conforto missed five weeks in 2021 with a right hamstring injury and was sidelined all of last season by a right shoulder injury he sustained while working out as a free agent.

Conforto exited Thursday's game in Toronto with a tight left hamstring after he made a catch in right field in the first inning. He underwent imaging at the Hospital for Special Surgery -- located across the street from where he lived while playing for the Mets -- on Friday that revealed a fascia strain.

"Lots of people at HSS know me -- I don't know if that's a good thing or not," Conforto said with a grin. "I wasn't necessarily happy to be there, but I was happy to see those people."

Conforto's hopes of playing this weekend remained intact when he was not placed on the injured list Friday by the Giants, who optioned infielder David Villar to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for starting pitcher Alex Cobb when he was reinstated from the IL.

"I was looking forward to stepping in the box and playing in front of these fans again and that's kind of heartbreaking a little bit," Conforto said. "I had some imaging to see if I can make it into a game this weekend. It's something I want to do."

Patrick Bailey hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning to help the Giants beat the reeling Mets 5-4 in the series opener.

The Mets also aired a tribute to Giants infielder J.D. Davis, who played for the team from 2019 until he was traded to San Francisco last Aug. 2. In addition, infielder Wilmer Flores, a popular Mets player from 2013 to 2018, received a warm ovation when he batted in the first inning.