Milledge a breath of fresh air
Randolph feels flashy outfielder brings intensity to game
NEW YORK -- Not many people would argue that Lastings Milledge isn't fun to watch.
Some may say his game-time celebrations are a bit much, but, for better or for worse, the 22-year-old outfielder has brought his own personal style and energy to Shea Stadium.
"I like to use the word colorful," Milledge said. "It's kind of like if you've got two TVs, and one's in color and the other one's in black-and-white, which one do you choose? Both are kind of the same thing, but the other one is kind of more appealing to the eye."
On Tuesday night against the Pirates, Milledge's excitement was in living color, as he congratulated pitcher John Maine on his first career home run in the fourth inning, then added one of his own four innings later. In between, he was hit by a pitch by Pirates reliever Tony Armas Jr., a not too subtle suggestion, some thought, to scale down the on-field celebrating.
And manager Willie Randolph would have preferred to watch Milledge's show in grayscale. Randolph said he spoke to Milledge afterward about taking his excitement down a notch.
"I tell the guys, have fun and do your thing," Randolph said. "I'm more an old school guy, so I feel like it's OK to do that -- I don't put shackles on my players -- but I very calmly say to them, just bring it closer to the dugout."
Toning down has been a process for Milledge. Last season, he ran down the sideline, high-fiving fans, which was the cause for another talk with the Mets skipper.
A year later, Randolph said he has seen a difference in how Milledge carries himself in front of the crowds, identifying his behavior last season as a reaction to the energy in the stands.
"He understood after that that it probably wasn't what he was expected to do, so he learned from that and it's all part of maturing and growing," Randolph said. "I see Lastings being a player that now understands what it's like to play in the big leagues, how the guys carry themselves, and how they play the game. He's had a nice progression."
Even with his self-dubbed old-school perspective, Randolph welcomes the spark that Milledge, now older and wiser, provides the team.
"It's intensity -- I like that," Randolph said. "He has fire, a little attitude, and I like that. That's always good for a ballclub as long as it's under control."
Now more comfortable in the big league atmosphere, Milledge said he has started to find his place on the team. That comfort, however, doesn't mean he's about to stop doing what he does best.
"That's me and this is how we play the game," Milledge said. "We're not going to change for anybody, because we're a successful team. We're not going to change our game to satisfy an opposing team or another big-league organization. We're going to have fun. That's what you've been seeing in the last three years."
Stay tuned, because Milledge plays to have fun. And fun, he said is something he'll bring to the ballpark every day.
"Everyone watches us, not only New York, but everybody watches," Milledge said. "We're entertainers, that's what we do. Little kids are watching. We've got to set it up for the kids, and you've really got to have fun with it."
Lauren Kobylarz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.