Milledge already understands the game is the vehicle to get him where he wants to go. The sooner he finds work in the Mets' outfield -- that is, the sooner he gets to New York City -- the sooner he can begin his move toward his other destination, a career in music. That's when he'll really produce.
Actually, he already has. Milledge is a record producer, not a wannabe, an "is." At age 21 -- Milledge turns 22 next month -- he is the president of Soulja BoI Records, Inc. Hip hop, R&B and gospel for the masses, he hopes. He has the material -- he has written two songs and produced 13 others -- the capital, the equipment, the inclination, the motivation and, after taking a course in music engineering, some expertise.
"I'm getting there. I don't have everything yet," he says. "But I'm working on it. I just don't sit around all day, I actually get stuff accomplished."
And he says he has an ear. "I think I'll be good at what I do."
Milledge has foresight, too. "I'm already doing what I want to do [baseball]," he says. "If that [music] doesn't work out, I'll still have a job here."
It can work the other way, too. If baseball doesn't work, Milledge may have music as his fallback. "I'd rather have both," he says. For now, to an extent, he does.
All he needs is time, and a few contacts wouldn't hurt.
In due time, Milledge says. First, he must tend to baseball, which is to say he must produce before he can produce. "I know which comes first," he says. But Milledge thinks one can help the other. The game may give him entrée and contacts. Music will give him a necessary diversion.
Milledge began to immerse himself in music production last summer. "I think I played a lot better when I was up the second time [Aug. 1 through the end of the season], when I actually had something to do instead of worry about [baseball] things."
Indeed, he batted .313 in a 48-at-base sequence -- interrupted by a 12-day return to Triple A -- from Aug. 14 through Sept. 23. He had batted .233 in 86 at-bats from May 30-June 29.
Soulja BoI Records -- the "I" in BoI is upper case, he says, because it looked too small in lower case -- is all his. He put out $20,000 to purchase equipment, including music-production software for his laptop that allows him to shape and "clean up" the music. The laptop makes occasional visits to the clubhouse. It makes bus rides to Kissimmee, Fla., wrapped in an orange Mets towel and placed in a bag. Headphones in place, Milledge can produce anywhere. A more traditional studio is at his home in Bradenton, Fla.
The talent is in Bradenton, too, provided by Milledge's friend from home. When the CD the friend is working on, as yet unfinished, is released, the name on it will be Manny D; the name on his birth certificate is Immanuel Dent. He and Milledge go back almost as far as guys in their early 20's can. "It would be great if he had a career," Milledge said.
Milledge is already looking for more talent. He's courting Jose Reyes, who he thinks could become a reggaeton artist.
Milledge plans to remain behind the scenes, even though he thinks he has a performer inside. "What people will look at ... my image, I want to keep that clean," he says.
Milledge's baseball image suffered last summer because of a few missteps. It already has improved this spring. Teammates and staff have noticed an openness and a more engaging presence. Staff members, particularly Sandy Alomar and Jerry Manuel, seem to focus on him. They've all seen more smiles and have cut him more slack. One teammate, encouraged by the changes he has witnessed, last week said "It looks like he's changed his tune."
That's what a producer does.