NEW YORK -- Once was the time when the Mets' Minor League system was rife with the sons of former big league players -- Preston Wilson, Lee May Jr., Jamie Roseboro and the son of Larry Jaster. And since then, the Mets developed -- and traded -- Brian Bannister and drafted but didn't sign the son of Howard Johnson.

Bloodlines are not to be dismissed. Now another son is visible on the horizon, though not necessarily the Mets'. Not only is heredity at work in this case, but the player's name has a decidedly Mets sound to it -- Casey Hodges.

Where the son of former Mets catcher Ron Hodges stands -- or if he stands at all -- in the club's thinking as the First-Year Player Draft approaches is an unknown. Clubs typically keep their amateur thoughts confidential. But his father has seen Mets scout Marlin McPhail at the games Casey Hodges has pitched for Mount Olive College. And McPhail isn't the only scout.

Mount Olive, a member of the Carolina Conference, isn't a high-profile baseball power, but it runs a successful program in North Carolina. It is ranked No. 1 in the nation among Division II schools. And this Hodges, named for Casey Stengel and not related to Gil Hodges, is a primary figure in the school's recent successes as a right-handed pitcher and utility man.

Hodges, a senior, had a 7-1 record and a 2.08 ERA as a junior, and has an 8-1 record and a 2.78 ERA in 13 games -- 12 starts -- this year.

"He's had a nice run," Ron Hodges said by telephone from his home in Rocky Mount, Va. "And the scouts have been around. He's getting a lot of attention. If the Mets take him, that'd be great."

Hodges, who played with the Mets from 1973-84 and for no other team, still refers to the Mets in the first-person plural and maintains an interest in both them and the baseball career of his fourth son.

"Casey throws 88-92 [mph] with a breaking ball and a split-finger changeup that people like," the father says. "He throws strikes and he's poised. I'd like to say he takes after his father. But if he did, he'd be a catcher."