Nothing But Balls
Sports From a Different Perspective…

Rick Ankiel Saves the Summer

It’s been a Bananarama-esque cruel summer. There’s the horrible Vick dogfighting scandal. (this was actually only “bitter sweet” for me. Granted I love dogs, but any headline that includes the words “Michael Vick” and “Federal Indictment” seems like good clean fun to me.) There was the disturbing Donaghy scandal, which destroyed the semblance of respect I had for NBA referees. Now Barry Bonds has tainted the most hallowed record in all of sports and seemed poised to ruin one of my favorite baseball seasons. Should the Sox win the World Series (literally knocking on wood as I speak) it would always be the summer that a ‘roid fueled asshole named Barry Bonds passed one of my favorite athletes of all time in Hank Aaron.

Simple recipe for a shitty summer

As the Yankees close the gap in the AL East, my summer was completely turning to shit, particularly in baseball. I’ve had shitty baseball summers before, considering last year at this time I was living through the Boston Massacre Part Deux, but still, this was pretty goddamn disheartening. When you factor in that I’m picking 5th in our fantasy league as opposed to 3rd last year and can’t even properly look forward to fantasy football, I was somewhere between “irate” and the captain in 300 after his son is decapitated.

Then, with one swing of the bat, Rick Ankiel saved my baseball summer and more than likely the life of some elderly woman incapable of putting her turn signal on sometime within the next week. For those of you who don’t know, Ankiel was the mega pitching prospect who was promoted to the Cardinals in 2000 and finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting with some nasty stuff, namely a fastball that could hit 97 on the gun and a filthy 12-6 curve. Ankiel, who posted a 9.98 K’s per 9, seemed ready to dominate the game. However, when people think of Rick Ankiel, they remember the 2000 postseason rather than the season itself. Ankiel is the guy who confused the backstop with the strikezone in the 2000 NLCS, hurling 5 wild pitches in one inning. Ankiel couldn’t find the strike zone again and basically fell off the baseball map.

After a frustrating few years in the minors, during which he was demoted all the way to rookie ball, Ankiel, determined to make it in the bigs, switched to outfield. His impressive slugging numbers in the minors where overshadowed by injury problems, until this season. With everything going well for Rick, (32 round-trippers in Triple A ball) he was promoted to the Cardinals due to a Scott Spiezio drug problem. Then, in his fourth at bat after going 0-3 and striking out twice, Ankiel smack a pitch into the right field stands and cemented one of the greatest stories of the summer. The fact that Tony LaRussa was actually smiling (making that twice this decade, the other being after the World Series) told it all. While years from now the only homerun from this season that will be remembered is Barry’s steroid-shot into the AT&T Park outfield, it was Rick Ankiel, who may never hit another homerun again, who made this summer one to remember.

Making this guy crack a smile, let alone run along the dugout like a little kid, is a hell of a feat.


3 Responses to “Rick Ankiel Saves the Summer”

  1. I hate the Cardinals, especially Tony LaRussa. I want to gather up people to all wear sun glasses to a night game, to show how much of an asshole LaRussa is. As for Ankiel, welcome back and good luck.

  2. Looks like I was wrong about him never hitting another homerun, kid had 2 HR’s today!

  3. Good stuff. Love baseball, but not MLB anymore. Your post reminds me of the beauty in following a team for the entire year, and those rare and great moments that invariably happen to every team.

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