Michael Conforto

Conforto credits healthy, life-changing offseason for renewed focus

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NAPA, Calif. -- Michael Conforto had the best offseason of his MLB career. For two reasons.

One, he was fully healthy for the first time in two years. Two -- and most importantly -- he and his wife, Cabernet, welcomed their first child, a baby boy named Camden, on Dec. 21.

In an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area on Saturday at Giants Fan Fest, Conforto discussed his busy offseason and how the birth of his son shifted his focus after a frustrating 2023 season with the Giants.

"The baby coming in itself was such a perspective shift, such an eye-opening experience of like what really is important, where my priorities lie, what are the things I want to do, what kind of man do I want to be?" Conforto told NBC Sports Bay Area. "It's been such a special experience."

Conforto on Nov. 6 opted into the second year of the two-year, $36 million contract he signed with San Francisco last offseason, a decision he said was "easy" and was glad he made when he did given the stagnant nature of the current free-agent market and how that uncertainly could have impacted his first offseason and spring training as a father.

With his big decision out of the way early, Conforto was able to focus on being a dad while preparing for the upcoming season with a clean bill of health after spending last offseason rehabbing from shoulder surgery.

"It's been really really nice," Conforto said of his healthy offseason. "I'm not on a swing count, I'm not relearning how to throw, I don't have all that clutter in my mind of all those checkpoints I have to hit. You're just kind of going into it with the things that are fresh in your mind from the year before that you want to work on, and then you can just jump in and start getting to work.

"To be healthy coming into this year is going to be a game-changer. I think I got a lot of work to do, but it makes it a lot easier to get the work in when you're healthy and you're focused on what's ahead of you."

Conforto and fellow outfielder Mitch Haniger, who was traded to the Seattle Mariners for left-handed pitcher Robbie Ray earlier this offseason, were the Giants' two big offseason acquisitions this time last year. They had high hopes for Conforto in 2023, even though he, by his own admission, didn't feel quite like himself until mid-May.

In 125 games with the Giants, Conforto batted .239/.334/.383 with 15 home runs, 58 RBI and a league-average 99 OPS+. There were highs -- specifically in May when he hit .289 with 7 home runs and 18 RBI -- and there were lows. And he'll be the first to admit that it was not a season he was proud of, even if there were bigger factors at play.

"I was a little disappointed," Conforto shared. "You know, it's hard, sometimes I go back and forth on it. I feel like I should give myself some grace having missed a year, but I feel like I have expectations of being a player that impacts the game and I think down the stretch I didn't play up to the kind of caliber player I feel like I am. I think I had flashes of it early in the season. In some ways, I feel like I just ran out of gas just having missed a year."

With his shoulder injury and rehab in the rearview mirror, Conforto still struggled to stay healthy, suffering two separate hamstring injuries in June and August, respectively, that caused him to miss extended time.

Having missed the entire 2022 season, Conforto admitted his body was not prepared for the 162-game grind, and the setbacks plus the All-Star break disrupted the in-season routines he grew accustomed to over the years.

"It's like you forget, and even just taking one year, you forget the feelings of late June, you're fighting your way to the All-Star break, you get those days off and then come back and typically you come back from the All-Star break and you feel worse than you did before because you're out of your routine," Conforto explained.

"You forget all of these little things that happen on a daily basis and all the little things you would do to make your way through six months straight of baseball. And then just not having done it is going to hurt you in a game of repetition and so many opportunities, a game of failure; just mentally, physically it's going to be a hard thing."

The veteran outfielder knows there are things he could have done better last season and won't use his injuries as an excuse, believing 2023 was a learning experience that he can benefit from in 2024.

Barring a trade in the coming weeks, Conforto will play a prominent role in a Giants outfield that added KBO star and center fielder Jung Hoo Lee this offseason. As of right now, Conforto is under the impression he will be San Francisco's primary left fielder, with Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater splitting time in right.

With his disappointing season behind him, a happy, healthy, and refocused Conforto looks to bounce back in 2024 and provide the Giants with a much-needed boost in the field and at the plate.

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