As we head into February, Hometown Heroes begins its shift toward baseball’s spring training and basketball’s March Madness tournament action.
So we’ll start this week with a look back at one of the area’s top baseball draft picks.
Lastings Milledge, who played on Lakewood Ranch High’s lone state championship baseball team in 2003, has a new team.
But it’s not exactly where you’d expect Milledge to be playing, given the buzz surrounding him when he left high school.
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Drafted by the New York Mets, Milledge rose through the organization’s farm system to become a big leaguer at the age of 21. Garnering his stature as one of MLB’s top 10 prospects at the time, Milledge didn’t last long in the Big Apple.
He bounced from the Mets to the Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago White Sox before a journey to Japan from 2012-15.
After taking last season off from baseball, Milledge is returning to the U.S. to play for the Lancaster Barnstormers, an independent league club.
Milledge is going to be one of our veteran guys and leaders in the locker room. He's really excited about coming here.
Lancaster Barnstormers manager Ross Peeples on Lakewood Ranch High alum Lastings Milledge.
“Milledge is going to be one of our veteran guys and leaders in the locker room,” Lancaster manager Ross Peeples said on the Barnstormers’ website. “He’s really excited about coming here.”
Milledge did find initial success in the Land of the Rising Sun, hitting .300 with 21 home runs and 65 RBIs in the 2012 campaign.
Here’s a look at some other Hometown Heroes, from the baseball and softball diamond to the basketball hardwood and other sports venues:
Tyler Dyson: The Braden River High alum looks like he’ll get some playing time this spring for the University of Florida baseball team. The Gators baseball program tweeted that Dyson adds another powerful arm to their staff following his senior year with the Pirates. Last season, he had a miniscule 0.38 earned-run average.
Trevon Young: A Braden River alum, Young is averaging 12.1 points per game this season for Eckerd’s basketball team. He’s also averaging 6.7 rebounds per game. Most recently, Young led Eckerd rebounders with 11 in a loss to Barry University. The Tritons are 14-6 this season, which is Young’s junior year.
Carlee Lucas: A freshman at State College of Florida, Lucas went 3-0 and allowed one unearned run in 17 innings to earn NJCAA Region 8 Softball Pitcher of the Week honors. The Manatees are unbeaten at 6-0 and have a doubleheader Thursday before their home opener Feb. 7.
Antonio Blakeney: The former Cardinal Mooney basketball star is leading LSU’s scoring this season. Just a sophomore, Blakeney is averaging 16.4 points per game in 32.6 minutes per game. While Blakeney is performing well this season, the Tigers are not. They’re 9-11 and aren’t a contender for the NCAA tournament unless they win the SEC tournament later this season.
David Ballou: IMG Academy’s physical conditioning coach left the Ascenders for a big-time college program. He joined Notre Dame’s strength and conditioning staff recently, just a year after coming to Bradenton to work with the Ascenders.
Brian Poole: Last Tuesday, the Atlanta Falcons cornerback and Southeast High alum followed up his impressive NFC Championship Game performance with national media exposure on the Jim Rome Show. The national radio show covered a variety of topics about Poole, including not getting drafted, the Super Bowl, his big game against Green Bay, his time at Florida and Atlanta owner Arthur Blank’s dance move.