Former Mets’ star Lee Mazzilli made the borough of Brooklyn his stomping grounds growing up.
Abraham Lincoln H.S. in Coney Island was his home until the Mets drafted him right out of high school in 1973.
Located just a mile and half from Lincoln down Ocean Parkway and on Surf Avenue is MCU Park. Though the stadium wasn’t there during Mazzilli’s playing days, he now has a special connection to the park.
Lee’s son, L.J. Mazzilli, was the Mets’ fourth-round draft-pick out of the University of Connecticut in early June. The second baseman was immediately assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones, who play their home games at MCU.
“I sit here with goosebumps because I grew up about a mile or two away from here,” said Lee, who now works for the Yankees. “As a dad, I don’t know if I can be any more proud. Now just to see my son (L.J.), I think every dad would feel the same way. It’s just a special feeling, and he’s going to go out and start his own career. The Mets didn’t draft him in the fourth round for any nepotism. He’s got some talent. They’re not going to waste a fourth-round pick on that. They’re smarter than that. So he’s got a chance to do some pretty good things.”
L.J. hit safely in five of the Cyclones’ first six games as the team’s No. 3 hitter. He said his dad has consistently helped him with the mental approach to the game of baseball.
“I’m just so proud to be his son and be able to not necessarily follow his footsteps and what he did with the Mets but to add to my own legacy and wear my last name with a lot of pride,” L.J. said.
Right when L.J. was drafted, he and his dad immediately jumped up and gave each other a huge hug. L.J. said that Lee was probably even more excited than he was with the selection.
“We’re still on cloud nine, but I think we’re starting to come down a little bit,” L.J. said.
Lee said he learned the game from the greats like Willie Mays, Tom Seaver and Joe Torre, and he passed on what he learned to L.J. Though he was born in 1989 – the year Lee retired – and never saw his father play, L.J. has plenty of memories as his dad as a coach for the Yankees and Orioles.
Lee said that he is lucky to work for a great organization like the Yankees and now have his son work for a great organization like the Mets.
“He’s (L.J.) better than I was; I’ve watched him,” Lee said. “He’s more advanced than I was at his age. I think because guys have more things readily available for them, things we didn’t have growing up.”
“I think I’m a good hitter, and I bring the bat to the table,” L.J. said. “I’ve been working out my all around game as well, and I think I can bring fielding and instincts and base running as well. But I think my bat is the one thing that will talk for me.”
In addition to the similarities playing for the Mets and playing in Brooklyn, the two are also linked through Cyclones’ manager Rich Donnelly. Lee is ecstatic that L.J.’s first pro manager is Donnelly, who was the first base coach when Lee played with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986.
Lee said he wasn’t able to see L.J. play as much as he would have liked to based on the nature of his job. But now, he will be a fixture at MCU Park
“Now it’s come full circle, and he’s (L.J.) going to leave tickets for me,” Lee said. “I’ve been around here a long time. There are so many good things that have happened to me like winning a World Series, playing in New York and playing in my hometown. But to see your son play, it’s kind of neat and I’m proud of him.”
As for L.J., this summer in Brooklyn will lay the foundation of his career, and he’s excited to keep getting better and taking pointers from his dad.
“I absolutely feel like this is my first step,” L.J. said. “I just want to get in there and get playing. I dream to be playing for the Mets one day at Citi Field hopefully for a long time.”