HOWIE RUMBERG AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ The New York Mets have drafted another Mazzilli.
Forty years after taking local boy Lee Mazzilli in the first round of the 1973 amateur draft, the Mets selected his son, University of Connecticut second baseman LJ Mazzilli, in the fourth round Friday with the 116th overall pick.
“I’m so excited to be able to have the opportunity that my dad had 40 years ago,” the 22-year-old LJ said during a conference call after the Mets’ game against the Miami Marlins was rained out. “I’m looking forward to making my own name out there and carrying my last name with a lot of pride.”
Unlike his dad, who grew up in Brooklyn and was drafted out of Lincoln High School, LJ was raised in Connecticut and is a graduate of IMG Pendleton School in Bradenton, Fla. In his senior year with UConn, LJ hit .354 with 51 RBIs and 29 stolen bases in helping lead the Huskies to the Big East title.
“He’s been on our radar for a long time,” Mets Vice President of Player Development Paul DePodesta said. “He continued to improve from last year to this year and he had a terrific year.”
LJ returned for a final year of college after being taken by the Minnesota Twins in the ninth round last year. The extra year helped his development on and off the field.
“It was a tough decision to go back to school but the way I think I improved is some characteristics off the field that really helped me on the field,” LJ said. “Approaching the game with more enthusiasm, trying to take more leadership roles with the team, going out on the field and trusting my abilities and trying to pull the most out of myself by having fun and letting it all out.”
An outfielder and first baseman, Lee Mazzilli played parts of 10 seasons in a 14-year career with the Mets, winning a World Series title with them in 1986. He’s a career .259 hitter with 93 homers and 460 RBIs.
Currently a special adviser with the crosstown rival Yankees, Lee repeatedly said he was extremely excited for his son.
“A dad cannot be happier to be part of two great organizations in this city of New York and growing up in this city,” Lee said. “It’s a wonderful feeling.”
LJ not only received advice from his dad as he rose through Connecticut youth baseball to be the state’s No. 1 prospect in 2009, but he credited former Mets manager Bobby Valentine, another Connecticut resident with ties to the Mets, with helping his mental approach to the game.
Dad’s pretty certain LJ will enjoy the New York spotlight as much as he did.
“There’s always a lot of pressure in playing in this city and one thing that LJ is very good at is learning how to turn the page on a lot of things,” Lee said. “LJ showed a number of times during his college career he could rise to the occasion.”
LJ would likely begin his career not far from his dad’s high school, playing for the Brooklyn Cyclones.
NOTES: On the second day of the draft, the Mets also picked, Ivan Wilson, CF, Ruston HS, Simsboro, La., third round; Casey Meisner, RHP, Cypress Woods HS, Cypress, Texas, third round; Jared King, LF, Kansas State, fifth round; Champ Stuart, CF, Brevard College, sixth round; Matthew Oberste, 1B, Oklahoma, seventh round; Ricky Knapp, RHP, Florida Gulf Coast, eighth round; Patrick Biondi, CF, Michigan, ninth round; Luis Guillorme, SS, Coral Springs Charter (Fla.) HS, 10th round. … The game against the Marlins was rescheduled as part of a single-admission doubleheader on Sept. 14 at 4:10 p.m. It was the second straight rainout for the Mets, who were washed out at the Washington Nationals on Thursday. … The matchup of young pitching sensations Matt Harvey (5-0) of the Mets and Jose Fernandez (3-3) of the Marlins was pushed back a day to Saturday. Both teams will skip their originally scheduled Saturday starters, New York’s Shaun Marcum (0-6) and Miami’s Kevin Slowey (1-5). Jonathon Niese (3-5) is slated to start Sunday for the Mets, when Tom Koehler (0-4) starts for the Marlins.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)