I've been a fan of Rick Ankiel's ever since he arrived with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999, touted as the next Bob Gibson, and I was lucky enough to be in attendance at his jubilant return to the majors as an outfielder in 2007. So it's fair to say I've been pretty invested in Ankiel's career. But even for those who aren't, The Phenomenon is an absolutely fascinating read. Ankiel is remarkably candid about his struggle with The Yips and what followed - from his attempts to fight the condition with everything from therapy to breathing exercises to vodka, all the way to his reinvention as an outfielder and, more recently, a life skills coach for the Nationals, helping others struggling with anxiety. I've not read a sports memoir more honest than Ankiel's, and even those not familiar with Ankiel - or really, baseball, to a certain degree - will find themselves moved by his journey.
Ankiel writes about the bizarre twists and turns of his already well documented career. But there is nothing like hearing it straight from the source. On the page, he is far more emotionally open and vulnerable than any HBO or ESPN documentary could possibly get. He doesn't hold back on his troubled upbringing, his fragile psychic state as he struggled to maintain his career and sanity, and his use of substances, self-help books (and pretty much anything he could think of) to try and deal with the repercussions. Ultimately though, below all the hub bub of the Yips and getting back to the majors, this is a book about healing old wounds and learning to trust and love again, trust and love of others and yourself. Ankiel takes on this issue with surprising candor for a major leaguer.
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Rick Ankiel had the talent to be one of the best pitchers ever. Then, one day, he lost it. The Phenomenon is the story of how St. Louis Cardinals prodigy Rick Ankiel lost his once-in-a-generation ability to pitch--not due to an injury or a bolt of lightning, but a mysterious anxiety condition widely known as "the Yips." It came without warning, in the middle of a playoff game, with millions of people watching. And it has never gone away. Yet the true test of Ankiel's character came not on the mound, but in the long days and nights that followed as he searched for a way to get back in the game. For four and a half years, he fought the Yips with every arrow in his quiver: psychotherapy, medication, deep-breathing exercises, self-help books, and, eventually, vodka. And then, after reconsidering his whole life at the age of twenty-five, Ankiel made an amazing turnaround: returning to the Major Leagues as a hitter and playing seven successful seasons. This book is an incredible story about a universal experience--pressure--and what happened when a person on the brink had to make a choice about who he was going to be.
About the Author
Rick Ankiel was a major-league pitcher and outfielder with the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals, among other teams, for 11 seasons. Born in 1979, Ankiel debuted with the Cardinals a month after his 20th birthday, and became the first major-league player since Babe Ruth to win at least 10 games as a pitcher and hit at least 50 home runs. He retired as a player in 2013. He is currently a studio analyst for Fox Sports Midwest. With his wife, Lory, and sons Declan and Ryker, Ankiel lives in Jupiter, Fla. Tim Brown is an award-winning writer with 25 years' experience covering Major League Baseball at the Los Angeles Times, the Newark Star-Ledger, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Los Angeles Daily News and Yahoo! Sports. He co-wrote, with Jim Abbott, the New York Times bestseller, "Imperfect: An Improbable Life." He resides with his wife, Kelly, in Venice, CA.