The Rick Ankiel You Don’t Yet Know
Rick Ankiel was called up from Triple-A Memphis this past Thursday. Since then, he has hit 3 homeruns. The thing is that Ankiel was never known for his power. Coming out of high school, the St. Louis Cardinals were able to persuade Ankiel away from signing with the University of Miami by offering him a $2.5 million signing bonus for his pitching arm. Everything was going well for Ankiel as he rose through the Minors very quickly, making his way to the mound for Game 1 of the National League Division Series at the age of 21. Baseball fans know the rest of the sad story. Ankiel completely lost control, threw 5 wild pitches in one inning, followed up that performance with 2 other terrible appearances, and then took a break from baseball. This was 7 years ago. Look at him now. If you think the last few years have been rough for Ankiel, though, then you know absolutely nothing about his past.
Rick Ankiel did not grow up in a ticky tacky little box out of Agrestic, California. Instead, he scraped by along with his mother, who dealt with an abusive spouse that was serving a prison sentence. His dad was serving time for drug smuggling while Rick was being scouted heavily by every Major League team. His half-brother was also in jail, and was arrested 28 times in a 6-year span. If you think the past few years were rough, you have no idea.
Which is why I am not surprised that Rick Ankiel has persevered and is once again successful on a team that is struggling to be a playoff contender. Ankiel took his agent’s advice (none other than Scott Boras), and put baseball in the back of his mind for a while. He headed out to SoCal to get away from it all. Boras was there for Ankiel when he needed him most (unlike IMG for Jennifer Capriati). He hung out with Ankiel in Southern California, set him up with other players, and also linked him with a sports psychologist.
If you thought that Rick Ankiel was done, then you really underestimated the kid. We are talking about someone that has been through much worse than failing in a Divisional Series, and someone who has also seen immense success. The kid went 11-1 with a 0.47 ERA, striking out 162 in 74 innings in his senior year of high school.
In 2001, Darryl Kile (may he rest in peace) said, “one day, perhaps real soon, we’ll all be calling him the best pitcher in the game.” He was completely wrong. Instead, maybe some day soon, we will be calling him the best outfielder in the game.
For more information about Rick Ankiel’s past: [The playing fields offered an escape].