The story of Rick Ankiel is one of the best comeback stories in baseball. At least the part that we all know. The Phenomenon. A star pitcher in the making. The knife accident. The meltdown. The end. The beginning. The practice. The rebrand. The centerfielder. The home run. The outfield assists. Oh, the outfield assists.
It is like a movie, except one that would never be made because audiences would think it was too unrealistic. That is the story we know.
But there is a part we do not know. A much darker side to this story. Rick Ankiel details it all in his letter to his younger self in The Players Tribune. He holds nothing back from his childhood with an alcoholic and abusive father to “the yips” to his comeback. It is incredibly powerful. An excerpt:
Two outs in the bottom of the seventh, runners on second and third.
At that point your redbirds will be up 2–0 over the Padres. Two–1 count.
You’re going to take a curve on the outside of the plate and yank it out towards right field.
When it crosses over the fence, that stadium is going to go nuts.
It’s going to feel like you’re floating around the bases, and it will all happen so fast, but as you’re making your way home be sure to look up into the crowd.
Look at the joy on all those faces. Feel that happiness.
They know what you’ve been through.
And, at that moment, as you’re rounding the bases, it’s going to feel like the entire city of St. Louis is pulling you in and giving you a gigantic hug.
Read the rest here. You will not be disappointed.