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Like father like son, L.J. Mazzilli selected by Mets 40 years later

University of Connecticut infielder L.J. Mazzilli is seen

University of Connecticut infielder L.J. Mazzilli is seen during a game against Rutgers. (May 3, 2013) Credit: AP

L.J. Mazzilli sat with his father in their Greenwich, Conn., home last month waiting for the news. The MLB draft was into its fourth round and the 22-year-old second baseman whose dad, Lee, spent a large portion of his career with the Mets, knew his name was coming soon. The only question was which team would be calling it.

After being passed on by the Royals in the third round, Mazzilli said he knew it was between the Mets and the Mariners in the fourth. The Mets held the pick right before Seattle, so his fate would be sealed quickly.

When the pick came up, it was accompanied by the news Mazzilli was hoping for. He was a Met.

"Me and my dad jumped up in excitement,'' Mazzilli said. "My dad gave me a big hug. It was a really emotional day for all of us and really exciting."

It was also a bit symmetrical. L.J.'s father, Lee, was selected by the Mets 40 years earlier in the 1973 draft.

"It all seemed to make sense,'' said L.J., who played college baseball for UConn. "They say everything happens for a reason, and I feel like this is where I'm meant to be right now.''

The symmetry doesn't end there. L.J. is beginning his journey to the big leagues in his father's hometown, Brooklyn, as a member of the Cyclones (Class A).

Lee grew up in Brooklyn, playing his high school ball at Lincoln. He played for the Mets from 1976-81 and again from 1986-89, with stops at Texas, the Bronx and Pittsburgh in between.

L.J. spent childhood weekends staying with his grandparents in Sheepshead Bay.

"I had a little bit of a childhood here,'' L.J said. "Where your family is from is where your heart is from. Brooklyn is all I heard about growing up. This is where my dad made his path. It means so much to start my career here.''

His famous father could not be happier.

"It's awesome,'' Lee said last week after a Cyclones game against Staten Island. "I grew up about two miles from the stadium. It's a special feeling for me to come back to my old neighborhood and watch my son play professional baseball.''

Through Friday, L.J. was hitting .269 with six RBIs in 93 at-bats in 24 games. In four seasons at UConn, he hit .340 with 21 home runs and 139 RBIs.

L.J. spent his youth rooting for the Mets and, he said, his favorite player, Benny Agbayani. Even as his father coached first base for the Yankees in the Subway Series, young L.J. couldn't shake the allure of the orange and blue.

"When the Yankees won [the World Series], I was ecstatic for my dad,'' he said. "But I was secretly rooting for the Mets.''

As years passed and the Mets' glory years of the late '90s and 2000 quickly morphed into mediocrity, Mazz- illi became a Yankees fan. Being around the Yankees' clubhouse and playing the occasional game of catch with Derek Jeter will do that to a baseball-obsessed teen.

"I would try to impress him,'' he said of playing catch with Jeter. "I'd do handstands, throw the ball hard at him and throw it over his head.''

After that brief flirtation with the Bombers, he's back with the Amazin's. And he couldn't be happier about it.

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