The Mets had success drafting a Mazzilli in 1973.
Forty years later, they're trying their luck again.
The Mets used their fourth-round pick on UConn second baseman L.J. Mazzilli, son of former Mets first-round pick Lee Mazzilli. The elder Mazzilli spent parts of 10 seasons with the Mets, winning a World Series ring in 1986, and batted .264 while playing first base and the outfield in Flushing.
"I'm so grateful for this opportunity from the New York Mets and from Jeff Wilpon," L.J. said on a conference call. "I'm so excited to start, whenever I do start, and work hard and try to bring another Mazzilli to the Mets. It's a cool opportunity to be drafted by the same team as my dad, who was picked 40 years [ago]."
L.J. helped the Huskies to a Big East title this season, hitting .354 with a .408 on-base percentage. He stole 29 bases while hitting six homers and 51 RBIs. Last year, he was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the ninth round of the draft, but opted to return for his final season in Storrs.
The Mazzilli family watched the draft together Friday on MLB.com, and L.J. said he had an inclination the Mets might take him in the fourth round. When it was announced that the Mets were taking a re-drafted player, which he qualified as since he didn't sign with the Twins last year, he believed he was the pick, and the announcement came shortly after. He said he immediately hugged his father.
"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. I'm a very proud dad at this time. Our family can't be more excited," said Lee, who played for five teams in a 14-year career. "This is a good thing for L.J. and he's off to start his own career, which any parent is very proud of."
L.J., who was born after his father's playing career ended, said Lee taught him about needing to give 100 percent effort all of the time, and how to handle the mental aspect of the game. He also received a tutoring about what it's like to play in the New York market and all that comes with.
Due to his last name, L.J. will certainly have pressure to perform, but he isn't concerned about it. His father believes his son performs well under pressure.
"I'm so excited to be able to have that opportunity that my dad had 40 years ago. There are so many feelings on this day," L.J. said. "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, and then take my career as it comes in my own hands."
The Mets have had their eyes on Mazzilli for at least three years.
"He's been on our radar for a long time. Early in the spring this year, since he decided to return to UConn, he was a guy that we wanted to follow closely," said VP of Player Development Paul DePodesta. "He continued to improve from last year to this year and he had a terrific year."