Teammates in amateur baseball in their high school days, the two local products are teammates on the National League All-Star team.
Perhaps there was a time or two in the batting cages before a game at Bannerwood Park or in the dugout of some other local park in the Puget Sound where they discussed their dreams of playing in the big leagues. They were teammates back then, part of the Chaffey Baseball juggernaut that brought together the top players in the Pacific Northwest.
But playing together in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game?
On Monday at Marlins Park, Jake Lamb representing the Diamondbacks and Michael Conforto representing the Mets found themselves on baseball’s most prestigious stage as members of the National League All-Star team. So could they have imagined it back in their Chaffey days?
“I thought Jake was for sure going to be here,” Conforto said. “He’s a year older than me. When I joined the team, he was already their stud player. I always thought he was the best player I ever saw. I was able to learn from him and then as he went off to college, I took over his role being the guy for that team.”
Lamb was just as complimentary of Conforto.
“I’ve known Mike for a long time,” Lamb said. “He’s a great kid and just an incredible athlete. You knew he was going to be good. It’s awesome having some Northwest people here in the all-star game.”
And they are teammates once again.
“Now we are here together,” Conforto said. “That’s pretty cool for me. Just a couple of guys from Washington that made it here.”
Both were deserving of the honor.
Lamb, star at Bishop Blanchet and All-Pac 12 player for the University of Washington was drafted by the Diamonbacks in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, should have been an All-Star last season. But stuck at the loaded third base position with the likes of Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Justin Turner, he was relegated to be part of the “final vote” and didn’t get enough fan support. This season his numbers are even better. He’s hitting .279 with a .922 on-base plus slugging percentage, 18 doubles, three triples, 20 homers and 67 RBI in 85 games.
“I was really excited for him,” said teammate and MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt. “He was really close to making it last year and really deserved it. To bounce back and do it again this year is awesome. I’ve seen how hard he works. I see him on a daily basis. He definitely deserves this.”
Lamb got the news from manager Torey Lovullo.
“We had a team meeting and skip said four guys made it,” Lamb said. “To myself, I was thinking: ‘I have to be one of these guys.’ And then he said my name. It’s still unbelievable.”
Lamb made some changes to his swing before the 2016 season, lowering his hands and trying to get a better launch angle on the ball. It’s resulted in eye-popping power numbers.
“I need that cause I’m not very fast,” he joked.
A large contingent of Lamb supporters will be in the stands.
“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “I’ve got 17 people here, friends and family. They’re probably more excited than I am. It’s awesome.”
Conforto, a standout at Redmond High and later Oregon State, bounced back from the struggles of 2016 that included a demotion to Class AAA with a brilliant first half of 2017. He’s hitting .284 with a .945 OPS, 14 doubles, a triple, 14 homers and 41 RBI in 70 games.
Admittedly, Conforto’s 2016 where he hit just .220 and was sent to the minors was “a struggle.” It also served as reset. He changed up his entire approach to his offseason. He ate healthier, toned up his physique and started his offseason hitting program earlier. Conforto showed up in spring ready to win back his starting job and show why he was the No. 10 pick of the 2015 draft.
“I was motivated,” he said.
In that 2014 draft, the Mariners had the No. 6 overall pick and scouted Conforto heavily at Oregon State. He was a player that they considered taking. Seattle has struggled to find an every day left fielder and scouts believed Conforto was one of the closest players to being big league ready in that draft class. Instead, Seattle opted for high school hitter Alex Jackson, who struggled in the low minors and has since been traded.
“I definitely thought there was a chance they’d draft me,” Conforto said. ” We had a spoken to a number of their scouts and a number of people in their front office. Being a kid from Seattle, I was absolutely hoping to play for my hometown team. I wouldn’t change how it went. Everything has worked the way it should and I’m more than happy to be in New York.”
But both Lamb and Conforto believe that there will be more players like them coming from the Puget Sound area. The level of baseball continues to get better with each year.
“I think there are some good teams and really good coaches,” Conforto said. “More attention is being out there and the good players are being found a little more often. Players out there have to really love the game because it rains so much. It’s maybe a different mentality than other kids.”