Rick Ankiel

With all the negative/controversial stories in pro sports, I’d like to highlight one of the coolest of the current baseball season, the triumphant return of Rick Ankiel. He originally broke into the majors in 1999 and pitched a full season for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2000, going 11-7. He was a Rookie of the Year candidate heading into the postseason. Things came crashing down in the NLDS against the Braves, including a third inning in which he walked 4 and threw 5 wild pitches. The same thing happened in the first inning of an NLCS appearance, with 5 balls out of 20 getting past the catcher. As far as the coaches could tell, there was no issue with his mechanics so they decided it was all between his ears.

Ankiel bounced between the majors and minors for a few more years, never regaining the command he displayed in his rookie year. In 2005, after a practice session in which he was on target with only 3 of 20 pitches, Rick Ankiel announced he would switch to the outfield. He showed promise with his fielding and slugging, but a knee injury kept him on the shelf for 2006.

Rick again showed improvement as an outfielder in spring training this year, and was sent to AAA to ensure he got a lot of at-bats. Amazingly, he rolled up 30+ homers and went to the AAA All-Star game. Ankiel got his chance with the big show again on August 9th, hitting a homerun in the 7th inning of his first game back. On the 11th, he added two more and added a Grand Slam to win last night. His current statline reads: .328 BA, 5 HR, 17 RBI, .623 Slugging Percentage. It’s an incredible accomplishment, to make the majors TWICE at two different positions. Awesome.