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Plenty of cheers, lessons for Milledge06/04/2006 8:26 PM ET
By Chris Girandola / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Sometimes, just sometimes, emotions get in the way. And the Mets will make sure the kid with all the talent in the world understands. But you could forgive him for letting the emotions take over just a little bit Sunday afternoon. Lastings Milledge, who was called up from Triple-A Norfolk earlier in the week, gave the 48,791 fans in attendance at Shea Stadium a lasting impression on the day before the Mets begin a 10-game West Coast road trip. The 21-year-old ended his debut week with a brilliant 3-for-4 performance in which he hit a game-tying home run, had his first RBI and came up with a remarkable catch. Even though the Mets lost to the Giants, 7-6, in 12 innings, chants of "LA-stings MILL-edge" could be heard throughout the concourses as fans left the stadium. Milledge delighted the Mets faithful a day after scoring the winning run in the Mets' 11-inning, 3-2 victory Saturday. Early in the game, the phenom prospect, who was called up Tuesday, picked up his first Major League RBI when he hit a two-out, two-run double in the sixth inning off Giants starter Matt Morris to give the Mets a 3-1 lead. In the ninth inning, the 6-foot-1 right fielder with long, braided hair sprinted full speed to track down a pop flare by Todd Greene, making a sliding catch right in front of the fans along the first-base line. Then, Milledge had his biggest moment in his early career as a Major Leaguer. In the 10th inning, after the Mets went down by two runs, Jose Valentin hit a one-out solo home run off Giants closer Armando Benitez. With two out and facing one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the game, Milledge turned on a 1-2 fastball and drove the pitch from Benitez 390 feet to left. The first career home run by the kid tied the game, 6-6, and sent the crowd into a frenzy. With Cliff Floyd at bat and the crowd in screaming fits, Milledge stepped out of the dugout, tipped his hat and acknowledged the crowd. But after Floyd struck out to end the inning, Milledge continued his recognition. Running out to his position in right, Milledge jogged along the same right-field line where he had earlier made his catch and slapped hands with every fan along the railing. The crowd went wild again while Mets reliever Pedro Feliciano warmed up for the 11th inning. But in baseball, according to his teammates and his manager, once Milledge did that, he crossed that fine line of respect. "It's kind of cool to do that if he'd won the game and the game happened to be the World Series, but, hey, he got caught up in the moment," said Floyd, whose locker sits a few feet away from Milledge's. "He's got to know that and we'll help him with that, where consequences could be paid for things like that. "This is a team sport, and it can happen to him or someone else on the team where later on, you might be thrown at for doing stuff like that. But every player coming up wants to do that. I know I did. But I had teammates who helped me know right from wrong." Floyd has taken a quasi-leadership role with Milledge in his first week. "Even though I heard everything about what to do and not to do, I realized over the years, you can't be always cluttering someone's mind with too much," said Floyd, who has played with the Expos, Marlins, Red Sox and Mets in his 12-year career. "You gotta let him know when he makes a mistake and you have to help him deal with situations, but you can't give him too much stuff to process, where his mind is filled with clutter. That'll just mess him up." Milledge has had an accelerated introduction into the Major Leagues after Xavier Nady went on the 15-day disabled list with an emergency appendectomy Tuesday. Immediately, the highly touted prospect, who was drafted 12th overall in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft was greeted with thunderous applause by the fans at Shea. And in his first week, he picked up his first hit, his first run, his first RBI and his first home run and made a few outstanding plays in the field with his glove and his arm. "Each at-bat and each game, I've gotten more and more relaxed," said Milledge, who had been 1-for-11 coming into Sunday. "Cliff's helped me with my approach at the plate and my mechanics." Mets skipper Willie Randolph, who played 18 years in the Majors, mostly with the Yankees, had a conversation with Milledge after the game and made sure he educated Milledge even more. "I was firm," Randolph simply said. "I made sure he understood not to do it again." And although Milledge's day Sunday was filled with plenty of first achievements, he'll still have to deal with his first trip out west and his first plane ride with the team. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure a few of us will have some conversations with the kid," said Floyd, who smirked while getting ready to dress. "He hasn't warranted anything where he has to carry my bags yet, but he's getting close. But like I said, you don't want to clutter his mind."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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