In 1999, Rick Ankiel was baseball’s pitching prospect with the most hype. A season later, the 20-year-old lefty with a lethal curveball helped lead the Cardinals to the playoffs. But in the postseason, his stardom-bound career took a bizarre, disastrous turn. Over the next seven years, he worked his way back to the majors, changing positions along the way.
Rick Ankiel overcame a rough upbringing to become a one of the most hyped pitching prospects of the ’90s. “I grew up in Fort Pierce, Florida,” Ankiel told WBUR in 2017. “Family life at times was good and at times was bad. My father was an alcoholic and two-bit criminal, abused drugs. And there were times where he would disappear for a few days. You know, he’d start drinking and then he was gone. But when he would come home and you heard the car door slam, you knew it was time to make sure you stayed out of the way. And, you know, it makes it hard.”