If you have been following major league baseball lately, you would have deinitely heard of one particular amazing story…possibly the story of the year…and it’s not the draining controversy surrounding Barry Bonds' summer-long chase of Hank Aaron's mystical home run record…but the story of Rick Ankiel and the St. Louis Cardinals.
As a teenager, Rick Ankiel was both the High School Pitcher of the Year and the Minor League Player of the Year. At the of age 20, his first full year in the big leagues, he won 11 games for the Cardinals, struck out over a man per inning, and logged an ERA a run below the league average. He possessed a mid-90s fastball and a devastating curve and his future seemed unimaginably vast.
Then one afternoon everything fell apart. You may know the story: he started Game 1 of the 2000 NLDS against the Braves, was sailing along with a big lead in the third inning, then walked four of the next eight hitters and uncorked five wild pitches. His throws hit off the catcher’s glove, hit the backstop, hit everything but over the plate. It was a disaster, an agonizing meltdown on national TV. These five wild pitches began a downward spiral to his career that would ultimately see him decide to walk away from pitching in 2005.
Although he would no longer try to pitch, Ankiel also dealt with a number of injuries in addition to wildness, he would not quit on baseball. Because he looked like a solid left-handed hitter, Ankiel decided to have the confidence to try to become a position player.
The effort to switch positions was not going to be easy. In fact, if you know anything about baseball, pitchers aren't supposed to hit or be good at — specifically even in the National League. And little did he expect that this effort was going to include a trip to the low minor leagues and a slow process of working his way up the Cardinal minor-league system. However, he did just that, and there was progress every step of the way.
Ankiel’s turnaround has been amazing. Throughout all his difficulties, Ankiel never cried or complained about his fate publicly. He took responsibility and then decided to do something about it.
The transition from pitcher to slugging outfielder is phenomenol. And that is the beauty of this story. Watching someone having early success in the professional career to witnessing them battle through all the adversity with his pitching career, as well as his injuries, to experiencing the victory of not only playing in the major leagues one more time but making an impact…is remarkable. That is never giving up.
So, if you get knocked down…have the confidence, belief, and work ethic to stand up to the plate and give it one more try. If it worked for Rick…there is no question that it could work for you!