“When he first arrived in the big leagues in 2006 at the age of 21,” writes the Washington Post’s Chico Harlan of former Mets OF Lastings Milledge, “he was an unconventional clubhouse spirit, unconcerned with what older players told him.” A full season removed from periodic Wally Mathews attacks and being told to “know your place” by that great judge of baseball ettiquette Billy Wagner, the Nats’ Milledge attempts to give Harlan his side of the story.
Milledge: I mean, the thing was, the first time I came out [to NY] everybody was like, ‘You’ve got to be this way.’ I have to show up at the park at a certain time or whatever. I just kind of separated myself from people who were like that. I’m not going to say who, but you know. Sometimes jealousy comes with it. But if you’re here you’re here. It doesn’t matter if you’re here for 20 years. We’re all playing at the highest level, and we’re all major league players. We’re all even.”
Q: Why do you say that? Couldn’t that just cause you more trouble than it’s worth?
LM: Because nobody else can play the game for you. Nobody else is going to give you the money. Nobody is going to give his spot up for you. If I was to walk away from this game today or I wasn’t able to compete at this level anymore, then I have no regrets. I did it my way. Nobody else told me what I need to do. I didn’t try nobody else’s way. I tried my way. And if I just couldn’t play this game, I can live with that. But I couldn’t live with failing by trying somebody else’s way.
Q: OK, you keep talking about ‘your way,’ but what does that mean?
LM: You know, there’s always a thing where, Oh, rookies have to be here 2-1/2 or three hours before stretch. No. I’m not gonna be here three hours before stretch. If you’re here and you get your work in, it shouldn’t matter how early you’re at the field. You know what you need to do. That’s fine. You don’t have to be at the park three, four hours before the park if you don’t want. You don’t see nobody clocking in three or four hours before they have to show up to work. So, I mean, some people feel like they have to get here to read the newspaper or do crossword puzzles or get their mind ready. I feel like I come to the park, I have 45 minutes of stuff I have to do to get prepared for practice and get ready for the game. Five minutes might be watching videos. Fifteen minutes might be going in the cage. And then getting whatever other work I need.
Q: So what about here? Is it a better fit?
LM: Yeah, because the veterans we do have let us to be us. We’ll get ourselves ready. Don’t try to change who we are. I’ll always be a guy who lets you know when I do something good and, you know, I’m kind of a guy who, if I’m not good enough, I’ll tell you. I’m not gonna say I’m the best centerfielder that ever walked on the planet. No. If I’m horse [manure], I’ll tell you I’m horse [manure].