Where Are They Now? Lastings Milledge
Seven years removed from his six-season major league career, Lastings Milledge remains passionate about baseball. His aim is to help reverse a declining trend of black players in baseball.
Milledge, the 12th overall pick of the Mets in 2003, mentors youngsters in the finer points of baseball at 1st Round Training in Palmetto, Fla. He also recently opened Manatee Innercity Baseball in nearby Bradenton in an effort to afford minority kids an opportunity to learn and play the game.
“That’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” Milledge said of black ex-major leaguers like himself, “exposing the game to less-fortunate kids, and letting them know there are other opportunities in other sports than what they know.”
Just 7.7 percent of players on major league Opening Day rosters were black, according to the latest Major League Baseball Racial and Gender Report Card. That matches the lowest percentage since MLB began tracking the numbers in 1991. Back then, 18 percent of major leaguers were black.
Drafted out of Lakewood Ranch High in Bradenton, Milledge reached the majors with the Mets as a 21-year-old in 2006. He did not exactly make a splash in New York and was traded to the Nationals after the 2007 season.
Milledge logged two seasons as a regular, one with the 2008 Nationals and the other with the 2010 Pirates. His career .269/.328/.395 batting line in 433 games left most believing he never realized his potential.
“My main goal was to get out there and play baseball and win at all costs, play the game the right way—which I know I did—and I know I gave it 100 percent,” Milledge said. “I am definitely pleased with the way my career went, how my career ended, and what I’m doing now.”
Milledge played four seasons in Japan, then returned for one final go-round in the independent Atlantic League in 2017. At age 32, Milledge found that teammates with Lancaster picked his brain about the game, and it sparked his interest in passing that knowledge along to youngsters.
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He has found that the game has changed for black children growing up in inner cities who gravitate more to basketball and football than they do baseball. Milledge said he was nurtured on recreational baseball with the single goal of playing in the Little League World Series, which he did for the Manatee East team in 1997.
Milledge said he spends the offseason attending youth football and basketball games and talks to parents about their children trying baseball. One by one, he said, he can build an interest in the game he loves with the next generation.
“What I’m trying to do is offer somebody an opportunity to get top-level training from a guy who has been there and done that, been to the pinnacle of a sport,” Milledge said. “I’m trying to give back and let them know this is how it’s got to be done to get to the next level, not only in baseball but in life in general.”
Milledge, who is now 33, and his wife of four years, DePree, are expecting their first child.