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Mets' Michael Conforto inspired by visit to children's cancer center at NYU Winthrop Hospital

Mets outfielder Michael Conforto on Monday visited the Cancer Center for

Mets outfielder Michael Conforto on Monday visited the Cancer Center for Kids at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola. Credit: Newsday / John Boell

Eight-year-old Robert LaSpina wasn’t overwhelmed a bit.

When the Mets’ Michael Conforto walked into Suite 460 for a visit to the Cancer Center for Kids (CCFK) at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola on Monday, LaSpina patiently waited for the outfielder to hand out Mets T-shirts, baseballs and signed pictures to a handful of other pediatric cancer patients and their siblings.

A few minutes later, the North Bellmore youngster and Conforto were joking around and playing Wipeout on a Nintentdo Wii.

“There’s running and jumping in this game,” Conforto said to LaSpina. “I’ll be tired.”

Conforto added: “I’ll be ready for warmups tonight.”

The 25-year-old outfielder established Conforto Cares last offseason to help bring awareness to pediatric cancer and the challenges that patients face.

“These kids are truly amazing,” said Conforto, who wore his No. 30 Mets jersey during his visit. “They’re an inspiration to me, personally, and they are something that is near and dear to me and my family.”

Conforto said he lost a family member to pediatric cancer years ago.

“So for me, to be able to see some of these kids and meet some of these kids,” Conforto added, “it just warms your heart to see them smile, and how strong they are.”

Conforto walked the halls of CCFK and met children receiving treatment. He also posed for pictures and signed autographs for both the children and the center’s staff members. He made another stop across the street at the Children’s Medical Center to meet other patients before heading back to Flushing for Monday’s game against Cincinnati.

The outfielder, hitting .232 with 14 homers and 39 RBI this this season, had a group of children cancer patients and their families visit Citi Field earlier this summer.

The group received a tour of the stadium and the Mets clubhouse, raised the Mets’ home run apple and were shown the scoreboard operations center. Also, the children spent time taking batting practice in the Mets' batting cages and had lunch with Conforto.

What was LaSpina’s favorite part of his visit to Citi Field?

“Raising the home run apple,” said LaSpina, who was diagnosed in February with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), according to his mother, Jennifer.

“It’s just amazing to see their big smiles,” Conforto said. "To see them obviously not in the best situation, but to see them smiling and so energetic, so full of life and wonderment, it’s amazing.

“It really gives you perspective, it warms your heart and it makes you feel. It makes you feel. It’s just a pleasure to be able to hang out with them. The pleasure is all mine.”

Dr. Mark E. Weinblatt, the director of the CCFK for 17 years, spoke about what Conforto’s visit meant to his patients and the staff.

“It says a lot about what kind of person he is,” said Weinblatt, who wore a Mets yarmulke and tie for Conforto's visit. “He’s such a busy and important person, and for him to take time and visit, it means a lot to the staff, and coming here gives the kids a big boost to their spirits.”

Conforto hopes to continue this work for years to come.

“With some of these kids, I’d love to follow them and be a part of their lives,” said the Mets’ No. 1 pick, and 10th overall, in the 2014 draft. “They are big fans. They’re big Mets fans, and I think if I could make any difference at all, it would mean the world to me.”

LaSpina, who will endure a little more than three years of treatment for ALL, already knows what he’s going to write about when he goes back to school next month as a fourth grader at Martin Avenue Elementary School in Bellmore.

“I played Wipeout with Michael Conforto,” said LaSpina, who turns 9 on Aug, 25, “and I feel proud of myself.”

He added, with a big smile: “And I beat him.”

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