Mets keep it in the family with Mazzilli's son
Sitting in his father's office, L.J. Mazzilli watched the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft, waiting for his name to be called. His father, Lee, sat there with him, anticipating the moment when his son could feel the same emotions he felt 40 years ago.
During the fourth round, L.J.'s name was called. Not only could he share the emotions his father felt all those years ago as a Brooklyn teenager, but he could also share the same team.
The Mets drafted L.J. Mazzilli, a second baseman from the University of Connecticut, with the 116th overall pick. Lee was drafted by the Mets in first round of the 1973 Draft. As soon as L.J.'s name was called on Friday, excitement and pride swept up both father and son.
Mets COO Jeff Wilpon called L.J. immediately to welcome the next member of the Mazzilli family to the Mets organization.
"I am so grateful for this opportunity from the New York Mets and from Jeff Wilpon," L.J. said. "I am so excited to start whenever I do start, and work hard and try to bring another Mazzilli to the Mets."
L.J. finished his senior season at UConn with a .354 average, six home runs and 51 RBIs.
He was the first college player the Mets selected in this year's Draft, after they selected four high school players through the first three rounds.
L.J. doesn't have tremendous power, but should still be able to hit a decent amount of home runs in the pros, while also collecting plenty of doubles. The 6-foot, 190-pound Mazzilli also has great speed on the basepaths. He stole 29 bases out of 33 attempts as a senior at UConn.
"A high performance college player," said Tommy Tanous, the Mets' director of amateur scouting. "He's going to add a tremendous amount of offense to the system."
And L.J.'s father Lee was a popular player for the Mets in his own playing days. He was called up to the Major League team in 1976. He would go on to play parts of 10 seasons with the Mets in two separate stints during his 14-year Major League career.
L.J. said his father often spoke about the day he was called up to the Major Leagues, greeting then-Mets manager Joe Torre at Wrigley Field. And Lee often reminisced about winning a championship with the Mets.
Now L.J. has the chance to make his own memories, and tell his own stories to Lee.
"This is a very happy moment for me as a dad, to see my son, 40 years after I was drafted, go to a team that I grew up in," Lee said. "I'm a very, very proud dad."
Lee later became a coach for the Yankees, before managing the Baltimore Orioles in 2004 and most of 2005 before being dismissed in early August of that season.
He is currently a member of the Yankees' front office, and now he gets to watch his son try and become the next member of the family to reach the Major Leagues with their cross-town rival.
"I work for the New York Yankees. My son now works for the New York Mets," Lee said. "A dad cannot be happier to be part of two great organizations in this city, in New York, and growing up in this city. It's absolutely amazing. It's wonderful, it's a wonderful feeling."
L.J. has been on the radar of Major League teams in the past.
The Minnesota Twins drafted L.J. in the ninth round of the 2012 Draft, but he opted to remain at Connecticut for his senior season. L.J. said it was a tough decision to return to school last year instead of signing with the Twins.
But in the past year at Connecticut, he said he learned some important aspects of the game that helped him move up five rounds in the Draft.
"But the way that I think I improved is with characteristics off the field that really helped me on the field," L.J. said. "That being said, approaching the game with more enthusiasm, trying to hold more leadership roles with the team, and more going on the field, trusting my abilities."
L.J. said he doesn't feel the pressure of having to live up to his father's legacy with the Mets, and is instead looking forward to building his own career as a New York Met.
"I'm looking forward to making my own name out there and carrying my last name with a lot of pride from what my father was able to accomplish in his career," L.J. said, "and then take my own career as it comes in my own hands."