Father’s day arrived 24 hours early in Brooklyn.
Proud former Met Lee Mazzilli and his son, LJ, stole the show at the Brooklyn Cyclones’ media day in Coney Island on Saturday.
The younger Mazzilli, the Mets’ fourth-round pick in the first-year player draft out of UConn, will begin his pro career with the Cyclones, managed by Rich Donnelly, who in 1986 was a coach on the Pirates when Lee Mazzilli played there.
Since LJ was born, “all he’s been hearing about is his dad,” Donnelly said. “I was trying to tell him stories about his dad, and he goes, ‘I’ve heard them all.’ ”
The Mazzillis are still glowing over LJ being drafted by the Mets, the team that made the father famous.
“The feeling was unbelievable; it just hit us right away,” LJ said. “(My dad) jumped up and gave me a huge hug. I’m still on Cloud 9.
“I’m so proud to be his son, and to 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.”
LJ, who officially signed on Saturday and is penciled in to be the Cyclones’ second baseman, will be on the fast track in Brooklyn, according to Donnelly, because his dad “probably knows more baseball than all of us put together.
“Knowing Mazz, from the first day (LJ) was born he was teaching the kid how to switch-hit, and he’s probably mad that he’s only a right-handed hitter,” the skipper said, chuckling.
Lee Mazzilli is excited about the chance to watch his son develop in New York.
“For me, I guess as players, we miss a lot of opportunities to see our sons play,” he said. “I missed it, I missed all that. I knew (LJ) was looking for me during Little League and sandlot baseball, I wasn’t there. Now it’s come full circle and he’s going to get tickets for me.”
Mazzilli and Donnelly became good friends wearing the Pirates uniform in 1986, even though the team wasn’t good at all. Later that season Pittsburgh released Mazzilli, who then signed back with the Mets and won a world championship. But his bond with Donnelly was strong.
“When I found out that Rich was LJ’s manager, I said, ‘LJ, let me tell you something. You cannot be with a better guy.’ ”
Donnelly said he and his coaching staff were “really looking forward to seeing LJ on the field.
“When I heard we drafted the (Mazzilli) son, I was almost as happy as the dad could be,” Donnelly said. “It’s unbelievable, all that time has passed and here we are in 2013. The guy who I coached in 1986 now has his son for me to manage.”
And the manager has some news for the young Mazzilli, saying he might know a lot of the stories but he doesn’t know all of them. “As soon as (LJ) walked in, he looked like his dad, and I just said. ‘My god, we got a lot of catching up to do.’ ”