Saturday, August 11, 2007
(posted by OMDQ)
When I was a senior in high school, I noticed that whenever I warmed up before practices or games, my throws went wildly offline. We're not talking your normal bad tosses from a below average high school player - these were of the "Don't stand too close to Moynie if you want to live" variety.
As time went on and the problem didn't go away, I started doing the worst thing possible: thinking about and analyzing each and every throw. Where was my release point? What's my arm angle? Am I focusing on the target? It was as if my brain suddenly decided that my muscle memory was full of crap and staged a coup to gain control - only my brain proved to be an evil dictator that had no clue what it was doing.
This is how I view the ailment commonly known as Steve Blass Disease.
Eventually, I stopped throwing as much as possible, limiting myself to the occasional softball tournament or "side session" with a tennis ball and my parents' barn. Sure, I worry about the day my son comes to me and say, "Hey Dad, can we play catch?" and how he's going to feel when he realizes his old man can't do something as simple as throwing a baseball (I have actually thought about teaching myself to throw right-handed), but for now I've accepted my limitations and focused my attention on more important things.
Rick Ankiel refused to accept his limitations.
By now, the entire sports world knows Ankiel's story, how he realized in 2005 that he would never again be an effective major league pitcher and decided to devote himself to becoming a full-time outfielder. How he missed the entire 2006 season with a knee injury. How he emerged as a tremendous power-hitting outfielder with Triple-A Memphis this season. How he homered in his first game back, a three-run shot that helped the Cardinals to a 5-0 win.
And now, tonight, what does Ankiel do? Goes deep twice, picks up three hits, three runs batted in, three runs scored.
Will he make it long-term? Hard to say. He struck out four times in his first eight at-bats and it's only a matter of time before pitchers start to figure out his weaknesses at the plate. On the other hand, he's only 28, which means his best years could well be ahead of him.
Pass or fail, win or lose, Rick Ankiel has picked up a lot of new fans over the last few weeks, people who can't help but be intrigued by this featured character in a Major League Baseball produced tale of redemption and pride. Count me among them.
Photo: Yahoo! Sports (AP: Tom Gannam)