Milledge speaks to middle schoolers

Milledge speaks to middle schoolers

WASHINGTON -- Lastings Milledge knows how important it is for athletes to give back by speaking at schools. He's also young enough to know how to keep things interesting.

The Nationals center fielder spoke to 300 students at Ronald H. Brown Middle School on Friday, and after some opening remarks, had the students standing up, interacting and enjoying themselves as he took questions from them.

"You've gotta keep them loose," he said. "You can't be too boring."

The students enjoyed the visit, as did Milledge. After his appearance, he said that when he was a student in Florida, Pittsburgh Steelers star and hometown hero Alvoid Mays would come speak, something he said was motivating to him.

"It's real important to have not only professional athletes, but also, successful people who have reached their goals in life," he said. "Sometimes, these kids have negative feedback in their lives from their friends or people around them.

"You want to keep positive people around them. Especially professional athletes, because that's who they idolize."

The visit was the third in a series for Nationals players, who were appearing at District schools to help motivate the students before their yearly assessment tests. Elijah Dukes appeared on Thursday at Smothers Elementary School, and Rob Mackowiak was scheduled to appear Wednesday at the Nationals Park Presidents Club.

Milledge told the children that since he played baseball for the first time at age five, he's always known that he wanted to play professionally.

"This is my dream," he said. "Some people want to be doctors, lawyers or firemen, but this is my dream, and I'm living it."

He then took questions from the students, who were mostly interested in how many home runs he's hit. Milledge has 12 in his budding career, including one this season, against the Phillies.

When asked about college, Milledge explained that he went straight to baseball after graduating high school (he's 23), but introduced his financial manager Deon, who was best friends with Milledge in high school and now has moved to D.C. with him.

Milledge also handled other questions, saying that if he weren't a baseball player, he would probably be either in the military or a police officer, like his father. Several asked basic questions about his life and his abilities. This is the center fielder's first season in Washington, and he's still introducing himself to Nationals fans.

"This was a good opportunity for me to get to know everybody," he said. "I'm really trying to get my face out there and do some positive things in D.C."

Though it was his first appearance here, Milledge looked like a seasoned pro on the microphone. The students reacted positively as he kept the mood light throughout the session and kept the students involved.

As he left, he chatted with school administrators, who told him that he was welcome to come back any time he wanted, something Milledge was enthused about.

"I had a lot of fun," he said. "I didn't know it was going to be this much fun."

Michael Phillips is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.