St. Louis Cardinals: Rick Ankiel Featured on HBO Special

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Oct 4, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detailed view of St. Louis Cardinals hat and glove in the dugout against the Atlanta Braves in the ninth inning at Turner Field. The Braves defeated the Cardinals 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detailed view of St. Louis Cardinals hat and glove in the dugout against the Atlanta Braves in the ninth inning at Turner Field. The Braves defeated the Cardinals 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /
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Former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher/outfielder, Rick Ankiel, is the subject of an HBO special. His story is placed in the national spotlight Tuesday, March 21st, at 10:00 p.m. EST / 9:00 p.m. CST.

Many fans of the St. Louis Cardinals know Rick Ankiel‘s extraordinary story. If you don’t know, Ankiel was a very highly rated pitching prospect in the Cardinals organization who experienced one of the most public downfalls in team history. Ankiel went from being a “lights out” starter to someone who couldn’t throw the ball anywhere near the plate. And it all happened during the playoffs.

He eventually was forced to give up his dream of being an effective major league pitcher but refused to give up his dream of playing in the major leagues. Ankiel redeveloped himself as an  outfielder that defied all odds and made it back to the bigs. He also showcased an incredible arm and solid power.

Now, Ankiel’s story will be told in an exclusive special on HBO with Jon Frankel, a correspondent for “HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” The special debuts March 21st at 9 p.m. CST and features questions and answers with Ankiel himself about his “yips” and what he went through.

HBO publicist

Gregory Domino

was kind enough to provide us with the following teaser as well as a number of excerpts from the interviews.

Ankiel said: “I was desperate. I felt like I’m gonna go out there and not even be able to throw it to the catcher, let alone compete in this game. So I went with the vodka.”

Frankel asked him: “Before the game? During the game?”

Ankiel responded: “Before the game and during the game. I had it put in a water bottle and just carried the water bottle down with me. And I’d just take sips of it.”

Originally this story wasn’t intended to be solely centered on Rick Ankiel but athletes in general who suffered from the “yips.” However, Frankel found that many athletes weren’t comfortable talking about the issue and many effected athletes were tough to find. Some others are mentioned, but given Ankiel’s cooperation and his story, he became the centerpiece.

Ankiel is also releasing a book on this very topic along with Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports titled: “The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed My Life.” It is set to release April 18th.

This special on Ankiel and the “yips” contains many great interviews with Rick himself and people that were close to him including his mother and former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. La Russa and Ankiel’s mother both open up and share a number of personal thoughts and feelings that many fans and reporters are unaware of.

Next: Questions for the Cards' Pitching Staff

A lot of Ankiel’s story was on national television during the playoffs, but there was still a lot left uncovered. This HBO special will surely shed light on a situation that many of us have no experience with. Be sure to check it out tonight on HBO.

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