Born April 5th, 1985 in Bradenton, Florida, Lastings Darnell Milledge was a standout baseball player from a young age and hit the national stage in elementary school when he helped his Little League team, Manatee East, reach the finals of the national tournament in 1997.
Manatee East lost in the finals when Milledge was 12 years old, but he soon made an impact at the international level when he helped the US beat Venezuela for the gold medal in the IBAF’s U16 Baseball World Championship four years later.
Milledge graduated from Lakewood Ranch High School in 2003 after the school’s baseball team was crowned Florida 5A champions.
Even though he was touted as the top junior prospect in the nation when he was in 11th grade, his transition to professional baseball was not a smooth one. News that he had been expelled from Northside Christian High School at the age of 17 dogged him and largely prevented him from being selected in the top five after his senior year.
Milledge was drafted in the first round (12th overall) of the 2003 draft by the New York Mets. However,
additional details about his high school expulsion slowed contract negotiations, and he was only able to play in a few games at the tail-end of the 2003 minor league season.
Milledge worked his way through the New York Mets minor league system during the 2004 through 2006 seasons. In 2006, just before his 21st birthday Milledge was the starting right fielder for New York’s triple A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides of the International League.
He was awarded his major league debut on May 30th, 2006 a little less than two months after his 21st birthday. That made him the youngest player in the National League that season, and he would go on to play both left and right field in 56 games while batting .241/.310/.380 for the Mets that season.
His top team action was limited somewhat in 2007 due to a foot injury, and he was traded to the Washington Nationals at the end of the season.
It was with Washington in 2008 that Milledge appeared in a career-best 138 games. He hit .268/.330/.402 that season while working as the team’s everyday center fielder. His strong performance that year was in spite of the fact that he spent a month on the DL due to a groin injury that season.
A slow start to the 2009 season plus an injury while at AAA Syracuse helped convince Washington to trade the 24 year old outfielder to Pittsburgh along with pitcher Joel Hanrahan in exchange for outfielder Nyjer Morgan and pitcher Sean Burnett.
In 2009 he played in only 65 major league games, seven with Washington and 58 for the Pirates after overcoming his injury.
In 2010, Milledge appeared in 113 games for Pittsburgh and played both left (63 games) and right (45 games). However, after hitting .277/.332/.380, the Pirates decided not to extend his contract, and he signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox in February of 2011.
He only appeared in two games for the Sox though, and he spent the remainder of 2011 with the team’s AAA affiliate in Charlotte where he hit .295/.364/.441 in 123 games (444 at-bats). He had 12 homers and 27 stolen bases for the Charlotte Knights in 2011, and he was in the middle of a solid winter league campaign with the Aragua Tigres in Venezuela when he signed with the Tokyo Swallows.
Wecome to Tokyo!
The Tokyo Swallows announced on Tuesday December 27th, 2011 that they had signed 26 year old Lastings Milledge to a two-year contract. It seems like a basic agreement was reached on the seventh of that month, and the Swallows first publicly acknowledged interest in Millege at the beginning of November.
Milledge was brought in to help soften the offensive and defensive blow of losing Norichika Aoki to the Milwaukee Brewers via the posting system.
According to reports at the end of 2011, the Swallows were planning to use him in left field.
Milledge was assigned the number 85 which is the same number that he wore while playing for the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates. First base coach Tetsuya Iida gave up the number so that Milledge could have it. Iida switched to the number 88 which was last worn by Tokyo’s former manager and Tsubamegun favorite, Shigeru Takada.
MLB Offensive Statistics
NYM = New York Mets
PIT = Pittsburgh Pirates
G = Games
AB = At-bats
R = Runs
H = Hits
2B = Doubles
3B = Triples
HR = Home Runs
RBI = Runs Batted In
SB = Stolen Bases
BB = Walks
HBP = Hit By Pitch
K = Strikeouts
Avg. = Batting Average
OBP = On-Base Percentage
Slg. = Slugging Percentage
Other Milledge News and Notes
Lastings Milledge invited some controversy early in his pro career with the Mets when he was featured in a friend’s rap song involving typical hip hop lyrics. Mets GM Omar Minaya was quite unhappy with the negative PR that ensued, and Milledge was traded following the 2007 season.
The song was produced by one of Milledge’s companies, Soulja Boi Records. However, it doesn’t look like the company has done anything of interest since the controversy in 2007. The company’s website, as of the end of 2011, was still inactive.
In the second half of 2011 Milledge started an LLC with Deon Troupe called Pro Live Connect that attempts to give professional sports fans a chance to interact with their favorite athletes.