St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel was a sad figure when we profiled him back in 2000. The 21-year-old had suddenly, shockingly lost his ability to pitch during the third inning of a playoff game against the Atlanta Braves. He threw five wild pitches before being pulled from the game. The Cardinals started him in another playoff game a few days later, and Ankiel didn’t even make it out of the first inning.
The problem persisted in 2001, and Ankiel dropped out of the majors. Journalists wrote thoughtful profiles about Ankiel. Others simply wrote him off. Ankiel struggled in the minors until 2005, when he announced he was giving up pitching for good and would switch to playing outfield. It seemed like a long shot.
Ankiel is suddenly the the feel-good story of the baseball summer. He was called up by the Cardinals on August 9th, put in right field, and proceeded to hit three home runs in his first three games. He’s back.