by Eric J. Whitener
In a year in which we’ve seen so many scandals rock the foundation of competition and fair play that professional sports are supposed to promote, it’s refreshing to hear a feel good story. Rick Ankiel of the St. Louis Cardinals gives us just that.
This is a kid who in 2000 was the hottest young pitcher in Major League Baseball, and then it suddenly all went away. He went from throwing with pin point accuracy to making pitches that you swore Crash Davis told him to throw at the Bull. He lost his control on the national stage in a playoff game and it never came back. His accuracy was replaced by continuous wild pitches that became painful to watch. Rick made multiple attempts to come back as a pitcher, but he no longer could be the guy who was once described as having, “The best fastball, the best curveball, the best changeup I’ve ever seen. All in one guy," by current major leaguer Adam Kennedy.
After the 2004 season, Rick was considering retiring when the Cardinals offered him an opportunity for a fresh start as an outfielder in their minor league system. He toiled in the minors for the better part of two and a half seasons, and last week he was finally called up by the big club.
And then in a moment that one would only dream about in a feel good Disney movie, Ankiel hit a homerun in his first big league game as a major league outfielder. The appreciative fan base in St. Louis demanded a curtain call for their fallen hero that had fought so hard to get back to the top.
In a sporting landscape that seems to be void of role models, this is one guy everyone should be telling their kids about… I know I will.