"[My dad] didn't want me to play baseball just because he did," Cutter Dykstra said. "He didn't want me to feel pressure into playing it. He wanted me to come to love the game and it worked out perfectly because that is exactly what happened."
When he played for the Mets and Phillies from 1985-96, Lenny Dykstra's game was aptly defined by his nickname "Nails," and equally matched by a uniform that was stained by a mixture of dirt, turf and tobacco juice that ultimately said one thing: He was there to work and he was going to give maximum effort.
While certain habits may vary, the headfirst attitude has passed from one generation to the next, and Cutter, a senior at Westlake High School in Westlake Village, Calif., is looking to parlay some finely tuned talent into a high-round selection at the First-Year Player Draft on June 5-6.
"His dad played the game the right way," Westlake High head coach Zach Miller said. "He just went out and played the game. If you looked at the box every day, he punched in and he punched out and that is exactly what Cutter does. He punches in and he punches out. You can see the resemblance to his father, but if people are thinking that he's just playing off his dad's last name, they are mistaken."
Cutter Dykstra, at about 6-foot and 180 pounds, has primarily been a shortstop during his four years on the varsity team, but he moved to center field this season and believes center is ultimately his best position.
"I played the second half of the season out there," said Dykstra, who is willing to dive, scrap, bunt or steal his way to a win. "I can use my speed out there and track down balls. Also, my arm has gotten a ton stronger since I moved out there. I can really let it go, so I think the outfield is it, but it depends on what team drafts me."
What the younger Dykstra brings is an offensive game, and it's his bat that will ultimately get him noticed as he works to climb an organizational ladder.
In 29 games this season with the Warriors, Dykstra hit .473, mirrored his father's on-base skills by reaching base nearly 60 percent of the time, and tacked on a .742 slugging percentage for a robust 1.320 OPS.
Miller enthusiastically states that he would take Dykstra with the first pick in the Draft, but he's projected by most scouts to go as high as the supplemental round or in the second round. As many as four shortstops and three outfielders, in addition to a host of pitchers, are seeded ahead of Dykstra.
Dad, who provides stock market advice these days, believes that his son's baseball skills, physical tools and the intangibles that include an insider's perspective on what it takes to be a big leaguer should put him at the top of any scouting director's list.
"In the outfield, Cutter is a center fielder," said Lenny Dykstra, who added that his son is further along in his development than he was at a similar age. "He can fly and he's an offensive weapon. Cutter's got thunder to all fields and he's a run-scoring machine. His ceiling is very high. He is very raw.
"You just look at him and watch him. He's going to play in the big leagues and he's going to help somebody win in the big leagues and he's going to put people in the seats."
Miller, who guided Westlake to a 15-14 record and a berth in the playoffs this season, said judging Dykstra by his size would be a similar mistake made by teams that passed on his dad, who fell to the 13th round in the 1981 Draft and was selected by the Mets.
The top pick for the Mets that year was Terry Blocker, who hit .205 over parts of three Major League seasons. Lenny Dykstra hit .285 with a .375 on-base percentage in 12 seasons, getting a World Series ring with the Mets and playing in another with the Phillies.
"He just reminds me of someone who is determined and gritty and wants it," Miller said of Cutter Dykstra. "A lot of people say they want things and it doesn't happen, but with him and the way he is physically and mentally and emotionally, he is solid. There aren't too many peaks and valleys. He is consistent every day."
A scholarship at UCLA is waiting for Cutter should he take a temporary pass on playing pro ball and wait for the 2011 draft but pops is pretty clear on the next turn of the career path.
"He's going to go out and play pro ball; he's not going to screw around," Lenny Dykstra said. "It is my belief if you want to play and you get drafted in a high spot, you go after it and chase your dreams."
Cutter Dykstra credits both of his parents for supplying both a strong support system and also an athletic gene pool. His mom, Terri, ran track and played basketball in high school. But it's a baseball tree from which he has clearly fallen.
"He has made me who I am," said Cutter Dykstra, who tagged along to Spring Training late in his dad's career. "He's made me the player I am. Words can't even describe. I want to be the same player he is. I want people to leave the field saying, 'He plays the game just like his dad did.'"