Q&A with Lastings Milledge

Mets outfielder and 2003 first round pick Lastings Milledge was named the 2004 Sterling Rookie-of-the-Year Winner for the Mets Minor League system. The award is presented annually to the player who excelled in his first full season in professional baseball. Milledge talked to NYFansonly.com before being honored in a pre-game ceremony by the Mets. Find out what Lastings thinks of his first professional season, how he sees himself in the future and a whole lot more.

NYF: How does it feeling being named the Rookie of the Year for the Mets Minor League system?

Lastings Milledge: It was a solid year for me, but I still have plenty of work to do. I am not at my goals right now. My overall goal is to make the big leagues to everything I do right now is based for that and for me trying to get ready for next season.

NYF: What grade would you give yourself in your first season as a professional?

Lastings Milledge: I give myself a B, B+. There are a lot of things I could have done better this season. There are a lot of things I could have done better this season including cutting down on my strikeouts and drawing more walks, however overall it was a solid year for me.

NYF: You tore up the Sally League pitching and received a well deserved promotion to St. Lucie. Were you disappointed that you got sent back to Cap City after couple of weeks with St. Lucie?

Lastings Milledge: I was real excited to get the call-up. At first, I was worried a little about the adjustment period, however it was not that big of a deal. After couple of days I felt that it was a league I was suppose to be in, but the transition is not that big of a difference. The fields are bigger and you don't get the hits you usually get in some other fields but other than that everything is fairly the same.

NYF: What are your plans for this winter?

Lastings Milledge: I will be going to Venezuela and playing at the Mets academy over there, and just try to get ready by facing different pitchers. You see a lot of breaking ball pitchers over there, so I will get prepared for that and hopefully do well.

NYF: What would you say is the biggest strength to your game right now?

Lastings Milledge: Right now it would have to be my speed. I can get a lot of things accomplished just by using my legs, and it is a tremendous positive for me right now.

NYF: This is your second time here in Shea Stadium. Does this experience motivate you to work even harder to make the major leagues?

Lastings Milledge: It is definitely a good feeling being here the last couple of days. I got the chance to talk to some of the guys who I have met at spring training, so that has been pretty fun for me. Being in the New York atmosphere right now is just something I am soaking in.

NYF: What spot in the lineup do you see yourself best suited for in the future?

Lastings Milledge: I prefer the top of the lineup, however I will hit anyplace if it means playing in the big leagues. As long as I am in the major leagues I really don't care were I bat in the lineup.

NYF: Rate your outfield and defensive part of your game for us.

Lastings Milledge: My defensive game right now is strong. I still have lots of work to do, however for a rookie I feel my game is right where it is suppose to be, if not a little above.

NYF: Does the fact that several top prospects in this organization got traded this season make you feel worried about your future with the Mets?

Lastings Milledge: No, it does not bother me or make me feel anxious at all in any way. I just want to take my time, and if I am fortunate to make it to the big leagues I just want to make sure I am ready, and not to rush myself, but at the same time I want to get here as fast as I can. The bottom line is I want to succeed when I to the majors.

NYF: Do you have any set out goals for yourself for next season?

Lastings Milledge: I have my personal goals that I keep to myself, but I really don't care where I start off next year because I am sure the Mets will do a good job in moving me up the ladder at the right pace, and getting me ready for a future in the major leagues, and I am confident they will prepare me for that in the best way possible.

NYF: You had a little of a bad reputation coming out of High School but have proven to be a solid citizen so far with the Mets. Did that negative press bother you at the time during the draft?

Lastings Milledge: I really don't care what people say or write. I know all my close friends and the people who have been around me for a while know me for who I am. That stuff really does not bother me, I am a pretty strong person, and I don't let the negative press get to me, because I realize it is part of being a professional. That just only gave me fuel, and preparation for the big league life especially playing here in NY, were you have to handle adversity and play through all that. I am always going to be on top of stuff, and fight my way through all that. It is sort of the old saying of stick and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me. No matter what people are going to say about me I am always going to be the same guy you knew as a friend in high school, the guy you always knew in middle school. That is a great guy. That is a guy with character and integrity, and if you have been around me you know the type of person I really am.

NYF: Is there a player that you see yourself similar to or model your game after?

Lastings Milledge: I can't compare myself to any of these major leaguers right now, because I am not on their level right now. Ricky Henderson has always been my role model. I feel like that I can some of the things he could do, however I am nowhere near his playing ability right now, and I will not disrespect the game like that, because I have too much respect for the game, and for these major league players.

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