Conforto's mom set gold standard in athletic family

A 1984 Olympics double gold medal winner, Tracie shares pride, understanding with Mets outfielder

Conforto's mom set gold standard in athletic family

NEW YORK -- A child's curiosity can uncover much in life. Mets outfielder Michael Conforto's mother, Tracie Conforto, never crowed about her athletic accomplishments when her children were young. But there were a great many of them, and by the time Michael Conforto reached grade school, his friends were asking questions. Conforto searched for answers.

One day, Tracie -- a double gold medalist in synchronized swimming at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and a silver medalist four years later in Seoul -- brought some of her medals to a show-and-tell session at Conforto's school. As he grew older, Conforto recalls falling down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos, watching his mother swim.

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"There was a sense of pride that came with who my parents were and what they had done athletically," Conforto said.

Conforto's father, also named Michael, was a Penn State linebacker. His sister, Jacqueline, played collegiate soccer. But it was Tracie Conforto who garnered the most attention as an athlete, winning dozens of medals in competition.

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 That Tracie is visiting her son this weekend in San Diego -- overlapping Mother's Day, of all days -- seems apt. The two remain close in adulthood, mother often texting son nuggets of advice or inspiration: "You look fierce up there," or, "You look intelligent."

"Because she understands," Conforto said. "She knows. I think she kind of sees herself in me a little bit."

For the younger Conforto, the same competitive nature that spurred his mother to success has always burned within him. Tracie Conforto recalls Michael once drawing the attention of a fellow parent during a youth soccer game in Washington.

A young Michael Conforto takes a hack.Courtesy Conforto family

"He was so determined to make a goal that he was just barreling over everything and everybody," Tracie said, laughing. And one of the dads on the sideline starts yelling at him, saying, 'Hey, hey, hey, this is not football, this is soccer.' He didn't really know. He just, instinctively, he was determined and bound that he was going to get down and get that ball in the goal. That's sort of how he has innocently played his whole life."

When Conforto left home for Oregon State in 2011, Tracie did her best to stay connected via text messages. She does so less these days with her son thriving in the Majors, knowing "he really doesn't need me as much … he's doing it on his own."

But that does not mean Tracie is fading to the background of Michael's life. To the contrary, the two share a bond on multiple levels -- not only as mother and son, but also as a pair of high-level athletes. They both understand what Tracie calls the "obsessive" drive needed to succeed in a sometimes cutthroat world. They know the value of good coaches and dependable teammates.

When she can, Tracie attends her son's games in New York, during Spring Training and as much as possible on the West Coast. An avid golfer, she's had the San Diego trip circled on her calendar for some time. She relishes the time she and Michael can spend together over the winter.

"One thing that has been so awesome as a mom is that whenever I've come to a game, no matter how old he was, he would always give me a big hug," Tracie said. "He was never embarrassed in front of the other boys, even through the teenage years, the high school years. He does what he thinks is right."

But Tracie also understands the value of personal space, particularly for athletes, and so she's watched mostly from afar as her son has developed into one of the National League's burgeoning superstars. One day, Tracie hopes, the two will be able to spend even more time together -- to "golf like crazy" and perhaps use their celebrity to aid what charities they can.

For now, Tracie is thrilled simply to live vicariously through her son, who is experiencing the same sort of dream she did three decades earlier.

"You think of your young kid dropped in the middle of New York City by himself," Tracie said. "It really as a parent now makes me feel good that he's surrounded by so many good people and coaches and players and friends, and it just seems like such a wonderful family that he's developed out there. As a mom, that's probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.