New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto is fresh off his first career All-Star Game appearance.
As excited as he was to receive this honor, there’s a baseball fan in Brooklyn that was likely even more overjoyed than the Amazins’ budding superstar.
Cathy McDermott, a parishioner at St. Mary Star of the Sea, Carroll Gardens, considers herself Conforto’s “biggest Brooklyn fan.” She is the wife of Dennis McDermott, the legendary basketball standout and current director of alumni relations at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights.
Originally from SS. Simon and Jude parish, Gravesend, Cathy attended the parochial school there before moving on to Lafayette H.S., Bath Beach, and St. Francis College. From a young age, she developed a love for baseball, since her family closely followed the Brooklyn Dodgers and especially the team’s first baseman, Gil Hodges.
She met Dennis at St. Francis during her freshman year, and the two recently celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary. She has worked as a paralegal for various law firms in New York City for 34 years.
Of course, Cathy grew to love basketball as she watched Dennis playing for the Terriers. However, baseball always remained a passion. Once the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, she turned her interests to the Mets and vividly remembers listening to the radio as the 1969 Mets captured the team’s first-ever World Series title.
Conforto Fan Is Born
The story of her fandom of Conforto originates with her older brother, Dominic Cusimano – also a St. Francis College graduate. Cusimano and his wife, Barbara, were both teachers who moved out west to continue their careers. Barbara eventually settled in as a professor at Oregon State University, Corvallis, where Conforto played his college baseball.
Over the years, the Cusimanos supported all of the Beavers’ sports teams but especially baseball, since Dominic had played growing up. They soon became friendly with Conforto’s family, who would travel from Michael’s hometown of Seattle to watch him play.
When Conforto was selected by the Mets in the first round of the 2014 MLB draft, Dominic told his sister Cathy all about the fine young prospect who would be suiting up for the Brooklyn Cyclones that summer.
At Conforto’s first game at MCU Park in Coney Island, Cathy went straight down to the dugout wearing a bright orange Oregon State T-shirt and a Mets cap. They immediately spotted each other, and she gave the newest Cyclone a big hug and a kiss.
“I said to him (Conforto), ‘If you need anything here in Brooklyn, mention my name and Dennis’ name and it’s done!’” said Cathy, who spent the remainder of that summer following Conforto’s time in Brooklyn and even hosted his family at her home when they visited.
Conforto and his mighty bat quickly shot through the Mets’ farm system, and rumors began to swirl about when he would be receiving a call-up to the big leagues. Playing for the Double-A Binghamton Mets on July 23, 2015, he received a familiar visitor as his team was taking on the Trenton Thunder.
Cathy and Dennis along with Cathy’s other brother Anthony Cusimano and his son Ryan attended the game, and Cathy passed along a foreshadowing message.
“I said to him, ‘Michael, I know we are going to see you very soon at Citi Field.’ Little did we know that it would be the very next day that they (the Mets) would call him up,” she said.
Sure enough, Cathy was there at Citi Field the next day for Conforto’s big-league debut. All it took was for her to yell out “Brooklyn” to get a big smile from Michael.
Throughout Conforto’s time with the Mets, Cathy has followed every game using the MLB app on her phone. She also texts Conforto’s aunt, Carleen, back-and-forth about Michael’s progress in the Big Apple.
Earlier this season, the Mets began a campaign for fans to write Conforto’s name on the All-Star ballot, since he did not appear amongst the National League’s outfielders. Cathy told everyone she knew to write-in Conforto, and he was eventually selected as the Mets’ lone representative in the mid-summer classic, a 2-1 American League victory on July 11 at Marlins Park in Miami, Fla.
“I felt really great that they made that decision,” Cathy said of the selection of Conforto, who went 1-for-2 with a single in the game. “It’s such an honor. He’s (Conforto) such a nice young man that he deserves it.”
The Conforto Shrine
Cathy is such a devout Conforto fan that she has set up a makeshift shrine on a chair in her home in Carroll Gardens, complete with a signed Conforto jersey, rally towels from the Mets’ 2015 World Series appearance and a signed Oregon State photo of Conforto.
The shrine recently received a touch of divine intervention as well, since Cathy hung several crosses she received from a good friend who went on pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy, on one of the towels.
“The shrine is growing,” she said. “We should keep it because it’s brought lots of luck to Michael.”
After seeing the shrine, Cathy’s son Brian has gotten a kick out of how his mother has basically treated Conforto as another son.
“He (Brian) thinks it’s so funny how I’ve gotten so wrapped up in the whole Michael Conforto thing,” said Cathy, who is set to travel to Seattle July 28-30 to watch the Mets play the Mariners at Safeco Field while also reconnecting with Michael’s family.
That undying support is sure to continue as Conforto hopes to become a regular at the All-Star Game. He’s the type of player the Mets expect to build around for a long time.
“He’s (Conforto) definitely the future for them (the Mets), and I hope they see the value in him not just as a player but as a person,” Cathy said. “He is very, very humble … just the nicest young man that you’d want to meet.
“What you see is what you get with Michael. Dare I say the same name in the same sentence, but in my mind he could be our next Derek Jeter.”
Even though Jeter spent his entire 20-year professional career playing for the “Evil Empire,” that is still quite the compliment for any young baseball player.
And with Cathy cheering him on each step of the way, Conforto is poised to become the Mets’ newest leader.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.