Lee Mazzilli, a product of Lincoln High School in Coney Island, has plenty to be proud about this father’s day. His son, L.J., was just drafted by the New York Mets, the same organization that drafted him 40 years earlier. As fate would have it, L.J. is about to get his first taste of professional baseball in the borough that his father grew up in.
For Lee, watching L.J. play for the Cyclones is an opportunity to make up for lost time. Lee retired from the big leagues in 1989, the year L.J. was born, but his time in the majors went well beyond his playing career. Lee spent time as a coach with the Yankees and then went on to manage the Baltimore Orioles for two years in 2004 and 2005. It was during his tenure as a coach that Lee wishes he could’ve spent more time watching his son play.
“For me, I guess as players we miss a lot of opportunities to see our sons play,” Lee said. “Now I get to see him play and that’s what is special. The Yankees were so good to me and allowed me to see him play, but I missed it, I missed all that. I knew he was looking for me during Little League and sandlot baseball, but I wasn’t there. Now it’s come full circle and he’s going to get tickets for me.”
L.J. was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB draft, where as his father was a first round pick in 1973. Lee spent nine of his 14 major league seasons playing in Queens, and was part of the 1986 World Champion Mets.
“I’m so proud to be his son and be able to not necessarily follow his footsteps in 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.
L.J. will start his legacy on Tuesday when the Cyclones open the season against the Staten Island Yankees. Lee currently works as a special advisor for the New York Yankees’ front office, but as a former Met he couldn’t be happier that his son is with the Mets. From what his father has seen, Lee believes that L.J. has the chance to have a great future with the Mets organization, giving L.J. the edge over him as an overall player.
“If you’re a parent and you work for one great organization, and now your sons playing for another great organization, how do you match that? Now he’s going to go out there and do his thing. He’s better than I was I’m telling you. I’ve watched and he’s more advanced than I was at his age.” \
Growing up in Connecticut, L.J. is used to playing in New York and can’t wait until opening day in Brooklyn, comparing it close to a big league atmosphere. It’s this type of atmosphere that made him and his father so thrilled to be drafted by the Mets.
“We were both really excited,” L.J, said. “The feeling was unbelievable; it just hit us right away. He [Lee] jumped up and gave me a huge hug. I’m still on cloud nine and I’m starting to come down a little.”
The ties to his father’s playing career don’t just end with the Mets. When Lee was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 before coming to the Mets for his second stint, Cyclones manager Rich Donnelly was his first base coach, where the two became good friends.
“When I found out that Rich was L.J.’s manager, I said L.J. let me tell you something. You cannot be with a better guy. He’s going to teach him a lot about the game and I was excited that Rich was his manager,” Lee Mazzilli said.
With L.J. in Brooklyn, the Mazzilli’s can celebrate father’s day together. Lee and L.J. don’t have any big plans though; they’ll celebrate father’s day by hanging out and going out for a nice family dinner.
- Lee Schwartz