Lastings Milledge is Ocho Cinco?
There's a piece of tape next to Lastings Milledge's stall at Space Coast Stadium. It says "Ocho Cinco 85."
It turns out Manny Acta wrote the message and stuck the tape there. And it turns out Acta did so because Milledge has forfeited 44 to newly arrived Adam Dunn and has selected 85 as his replacement.
"When you wear a number like that, that means you're not gonna make the club," Acta joked as he walked past the locker today.
Several teammates expressed disbelief about the choice of 85, but Milledge said he likes it. He's already planning to get an "85" medallion, and he was laughingly comparing himself to Antonio Gates. The real reason he chose the number was, as some teammates correctly guessed, because of his year of birth.
"Plus I wanted something big, too," Milledge said. "I wanted a bigger number."
Football players openly discuss their negotiations for taken numbers, with the Redskins' Reed Doughty getting paid off twice last year, but Milledge said that there was no negotiation needed.
"He hit 240 bombs the last six years; how the hell am I gonna wear that and let him wear another number?" Milledge said. "Hell no. He never asked me about anything. It's just the proper thing to do. That happens all the time. Just like if Barry Bonds came here, whoever was wearing 25 got to give it up. That's the right thing to do. I mean, if he feel like he wants to give something to somebody....you don't ask somebody. We all make good money here."
"I don't," Willie Harris noted from the next stall over.
Dunn was, predictably, appreciative of the gesture.
"He thought that I would like it, and I obviously would, and so I think it was pretty cool of him," Dunn said. "He definitely didn't have to give it to me. It wasn't that big of a deal....I didn't care. A number's a number to me."
And he echoed Milledge's account of a hassle-free exchange.
"He didn't ask for anything," Dunn said. "I tipped him, is that fair?
As for 85, it's definitely unusual.
"That's you," Elijah Dukes said to Milledge, when he heard about the new number. "That's just him," he told me.
(While Milledge mentioned Antonio Gates, Dukes pointed out that he shares Walter Payton's number. "That's some good company right there," he said.)
One teammate gave me a "no comment" when I asked about 85. Another asked if players were actually allowed to wear numbers in the 80s. Corey Patterson said it was "like a receiver or a tight end or something," but said that "whatever number Lastings wears, he's gonna be all right."
(Patterson, by the way, is wearing 4, his high school number. He said he's been waiting to get the number back since then. "Every year I've been playing, it's been retired or someone already had it," he said. "Finally. Took me about 11 years.")
Dunn said 85 was "solid" and "different," but he also took a jab.
"That number's so ugly I might just give this one back," he joked. "I'll wear No. 1."
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