Imagine reaching your dream of playing major league baseball and pitching for one of the most prestigious teams in the league, the St. Louis Cardinals. You were their #1 prospect in baseball and you haven’t disappointed them in any way. This is the point that Rick Ankiel will tell us in his book.
Before the major leagues, Ankiel grew up in St. Lucie, Florida and used baseball as a refuge from with an abusive father that battered his mom constantly and his brother was a criminal. He took to baseball to shut it all out and keep his head on straight.As a teen, Ankiel dealt with the death of his best friend for life. He had no one to talk to as he struggled with his emotions. The only thing he could do was bury his thoughts and seek solace in baseball
Rick Ankiel was an accomplished baseball pitcher and agonized on whether to accept a college scholarship or go to professional baseball immediately. The latter decision could get him millions of dollars. He knew baseball was his avenue to wealth and possible retirement at an early age.
Ankiel went through the minor leagues with relative ease and got the call-up to the major leagues. He was a phenom and at age 21 he was in postseason for the Cardinals. Manager Tony LaRussa even gave him a game one start.He went to the mound with speed and assurance he was the right person for the job. But then an anxiety disorder hit him on the mound and his skill went downhill. It wasn’t in front of just a few people but rather the millions watching on TV. He couldn’t win the fight over anxiety. It was the end of his pitching career at an early age,
He went to doctors to get help and he found Harvey Dorman, a sports psychologist, and with his effort and help, transformed Ankiel back into a major league player. He wasn’t a pitcher but now he came back with vengeance as an outfielder. He made the rise back to the major leagues.
Major league players speak up in this book and coaches give their thoughts on his yips in baseball and the determination he showed in getting back to the Cardinals and the satisfaction he gave to his manager Tony LaRussa.
This book is about life and the curves that can come your way along with strategies on how to handle adversity. Pick this book up as it is a very good read.
Ankiel’s words on the fateful day come to us from an interview with NPR
You know, I thought everything – you know, all I had to do was go out there and throw strikes really, just keep my team in. We – you know, we scored all those runs off Greg Maddux, which never happens. You know – and all I got to do is go out there and pitch my game. I don’t have to do anything special, just pitch a normal game, and we win. And here we go. We’re 1-0 starting the playoffs. I threw a pitch that didn’t quite sit right. I threw a fastball in the inner half. And when I threw to the inner half of the plate, as a left-hander, it would cut a little bit in.
And we had a catcher named Carlos Hernandez who came in to catch me. And he didn’t quite know what the pitch – what the action on my pitches were. Mike Matheny, who was our normal catcher, had cut his hand with a hunting knife, so he was going to miss the entire rest of the season. And I threw that pitch, and something in the back of my mind – I just felt like, man, I just threw a wild pitch on national TV. And it really wasn’t that bad of a pitch. I mean, if Mike was there, he would’ve caught it. Not saying that it would’ve been any different, but I brushed it off and kept going. And then, you know, all of a sudden, a few pitches later, I spiked the curveball. Then I started throwing balls off the screen and spiking stuff, and it just spiraled out of control.