Milledge gives kids what he never had
Nationals outfielder chats with campers and answers questions
WASHINGTON -- A seasoned veteran of the New York and Washington media, Lastings Milledge has answered plenty of tough questions in his short Major League career. On Wednesday afternoon, however, he faced a more innocent -- and persistent -- interrogation, one run by children.
Milledge took time before lunch on Wednesday to meet with campers from the DMB Sports Camp in Lansdowne, Va. Standing before boys and girls in the Northern Virginia suburb, Milledge donned his No. 44 white, red and gold Nationals jersey and fielded an array of questions, some more serious than others.
"Did you bring tickets?" asked one boy at the back of the group, pausing before delivering the punchline: "To the gun show?"
The boy sat back down to laughter, but he wasn't quite wrong, because Milledge did bring tickets -- to the Nationals' Aug. 12 game against the Mets.
Other questions covered Milledge's favorite food (lasagna), sport other than baseball (football -- he's a Cowboys fan) and stadium other than Nationals Park (Arizona's Chase Field).
Campers from the cheerleading section of the program welcomed Milledge with a cheer before the Washington center fielder began the event with brief remarks. He didn't talk long before opening the floor to the bevy of questions.
Milledge, who said he thinks he likes getting out into the community more than any of his teammates, said that it was important to let the children find out what they wanted to know rather than listen to him give a long speech.
"I never really had people to come and talk to me, unfortunately," Milledge said. "So I want to just give everybody what I didn't get, and I think it's kind of cool."
DMB Sports Camp director Melissa Rayburn said the camp is grateful when athletes like Milledge come and speak. She said the program has good relationships with several major Washington-area teams, including the Nationals, and it tries to host players from multiple organizations each summer.
"Seeing an athlete come ... gives [campers] exposure to other sports and lets them know that the dream is still alive," Ryburn said. "These athletes were at their place at one point in time, and they can always make it if they work hard."
Ryburn said athletes like Milledge are good at talking about their beginnings and showing campers that they once spent their summers eating sack lunches and dreaming of big league careers.
Milledge has a different aspiration. He hopes to spur these campers to themselves speak in front of children when they are older, whatever the topic.
"It doesn't necessarily have to be talking in front of kids as far as you being an athlete," Milledge said. "They can be in law enforcement and talking to kids about drugs and alcohol abuse and stuff like that as well."
Zachary Osterman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.