Former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher and outfielder Rick Ankiel claims he consumed alcohol before starts to calm his nerves.
At one point in time, early on in his career, Rick Ankiel was one of the most highly regarded pitching prospects in baseball. In 1998, Ankiel was ranked the number 1 pitching prospect in the minor leagues.
One year later, right before his call-up to the big leagues, Ankiel was named the Minor League Player of the Year by both Baseball America and USA Today.
Unfortunately, he was never able to live up to the hype of becoming a league legend, but he still had a pretty great career. In all honesty, he one of my favorite players to play the game.
If not for his crazy arm or improbable transition from pitcher to outfield, then for his suave, mysterious, tough-guy persona. For these reasons I don’t feel all too bad about throwing a few jabs his way.
A few days ago, Rick Ankiel participated in a radio talk show in order to promote his new book, “The Phenomenon”. In this interview, Ankiel revealed a pre-game ritual that he tried out a couple of times after his horrific appearance in the 2000 NLDS: drinking vodka.
And who can blame him? That inning was one of the worst innings ever pitched by an MLB pitcher. If you aren’t familiar with it, or just need a good laugh, here is what I’m referencing.
To me, that video gets more hilarious every time I watch it. The montage of wild-pitches at the end really gets to me. Ankiel claims that he only participated in his pre-game pre-game twice, but I’m not so sure. Some may even wonder if he was drunk during this game too.
Oh what is that? Do I smell a conspiracy? *Snnnnf Snnnnf*
What if Ankiel was drunk before every game?
Maybe he even participated in the festivities during the game with the ole hidden flask in the glove (which I just came up with).
In light of this shocking idea, let’s rank Ankiel’s three best moments and take a guess at how drunk he was during each. As a comparison I would guess Ankiel was at least 10 drinks in, or pretty close to blackout, in the clip above (Those pitches were realllly bad).
3. Ankiel’s Walk-Off Hit in the Card’s Last Home Game of 2007
Now this was a hard video to find, as evidenced by the not so great fan-shot quality of it. Down by 2-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Ankiel comes to bat with the opportunity to win the last home game of the season and send the fans home happy. In a sort of cherry-on-the-top fashion, in his first season back in the MLB in an all new position, he rips the ball down the right field line for a walk off triple.
Now it’s very hard to see Ankiel in this footage, so I can’t make a direct claim about his drunk level. Fortunately, I just learned about the transitive property in school, which says that if x=y and y=z then x=z. Using this sound-proof property, the drunk level of Ankiel is exactly equal to the drunk level of the fan filming the game. So with that in mind, it’s pretty obvious Ankiel is at least 6 beers deep.
2. Ankiel’s Two Amazing Outfield Assists, in One Game
As the young millennial college student I am, this is one of my more memorable moments of Ankiel. It was really hard to not give this game the number one spot. Two miraculous throws in one game. I mean if he would have made only one of them, this game would still be a contender for this list.
Now if you look at how accurate those throws are, you may be led to believe that he was completely sober during this game. Well, that’s where you’re wrong. A man like Ankiel surely can pound down a few shots and still complete a flawless round of hop-scotch on the playground. But I hear you. That’s why I guess that he was only one or two brews deep.
1. Ankiel’s Home-Run in His First MLB Game as an Outfielder
Context is everything.
I know its cliché, but put yourself in the shoes of Rick Ankiel. All throughout high-school, college, and the minor leagues, you were considered one of the best young talents in baseball. After putting in tons of work, and dreaming of the moment your entire life, you get called up the major leagues.
With tons of hype surrounding you, you’re never able to live up to the expectations that coaches have put on you, fans have put on you, and most importantly, you’ve put on yourself. After two and a half short years in the MLB, you’re demoted back to the minor leagues.
Usually when this happens, you’re pretty unlikely to be called back up, and you know this. You may have blown your shot. Coach comes to you and says, the only way you’ll make it again is by playing outfield, a position that you haven’t played in a long time, competing with players who have been their entire lives.
Now re-watch the video with all of that in mind. The journey and the emotions that went with it. Not only that, but he stepped up to the plate in the seventh inning 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. With the flashback of failure probably somewhere in his mind.
Now with that motivational interjection behind, Ankiel was looking pretty tipsy out their. If you look closely Ankiel was really struggling to get around those bases. And did you see that high-five with the third-base coach. If I had to guess, he was probably four or five shots deep at that point.
Well I might be wrong, maybe it was just the flurry of emotion.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports