In this day and age, when we hear about Michael Vick, Pac Man Jones and Tank Johnson, it is nice to know there are some inspirational stories too.
In St. Louis, Rick Ankiel has been one of those feel-good stories. It looked like his major league career was over when he was pitching for the Cardinals and simply could not find home plate. Here was a young man with so much promise and potential, but mentally he was struggling under the pressure of pitching in the big leagues.
He was a member of the Cardinals from 1999-2004. His confidence simply disappeared as he struggled with wildness. He has a disastrous playoff performance that led to his eventual decision to leave the Cardinals and pitching behind.
Ankiel went through elbow problems, Tommy John surgery, and he was never the same pitcher that he was in the early days of his major league career. During the 2000 season, at age 21, he was 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA in 30 starts, and over a strikeout per inning. Potential, potential, potential; this was the start of a special career, or so people thought.
The Cardinals did not give up on Ankiel as a person, and gave him a shot to comeback as an outfielder. The team wanted to take advantage of his potential as a batter. He suffered a torn tendon in his knee in spring training last year, and during his rehabilitation, he worked on becoming stronger. He also put his past pitching woes behind him.
Fast forward to a recent game against the Padres. Ankiel hit a home run. Then he followed up with a pair of dingers last weekend against the Dodgers. My friends, Hollywood scriptwriters couldn't have done it any better.
Keep an eye on Ankiel. He has worked hard and busted his gut. You know Tony LaRussa is happy with Ankiel's return to the bigs.
It's nice to hear stories like that one, as well as the comeback of Josh Hamilton. It's great to overcome adversity.