An expectant hush falls over the crowd at LIU Field in Downtown Brooklyn whenever Greg Vaughn Jr. steps to the plate.
And with good reason. The Blackbirds’ leftfielder and leadoff hitter has what people in the sports world call “the look” — it says, “I’m ready, I’m focused and I know I can beat you.”
It’s in his genes. Vaughn is the son of former major leaguer Greg Vaughn, a four-time All-Star who slugged 355 home runs during a 15-year career.
“It’s a bonus having him in my corner,” said the younger Vaughn, who grew up in northern California. “I talk to him every day.”
Moving from California, where the fields are grass and the weather is perfect for baseball, to Brooklyn, where the field is turf (due to weather and lack of open space) has been a big change, but Vaughn seems to be doing just fine. He’s hitting .282 and leads the Blackbirds with 27 runs scored in 31 games. He recently welcomed his mom, Leticia Romo, and stepfather, Bill Davis, to Brooklyn to watch him play.
“I’m getting used to the East Coast,” Vaughn said. “My coaches, my teammates, they’ve been great. I’ve been really happy with the move so far.”
So have the Blackbirds. Vaughn, a junior, started his collegiate career at Folsom Lake College, a junior college in his home state. LIU pitching coach Tom Carty spotted him during a showcase for JUCO players.
“Not surprisingly, he stood out,” said Dan Pirillo, an LIU alum in his second year as head coach.
Vaughn is one of four West Coast-based Blackbirds — along with Californians Brock Hallum and Alex Briggs and Arizona native Zach Pederson. He’s part of a talented nucleus that includes infielder Andrew Turner, a 40th-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft (Miami) who opted to stay in Brooklyn for his senior year.
Expectations are high. LIU (17-15, 8-6 NEC) hopes to win 30 games for the first time in school history and earn an NEC title and NCAA Tournament bid. Vaughn hopes the Blackbirds will give him a chance to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“Our goals are the same, regardless of who’s here,” Pirillo said. “But having a guy like Greg on our team helps our guys so much. When he steps into the batter’s box, there’s a sense he knows what he’s doing, and our guys feed off that.”