Aug. 10th, 2007

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Rick Ankiel was the starting right fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals tonight after being called up from Triple-A earlier in the day. In his first at-bat, he popped out weakly to the shortstop. In his next two at-bats, he struck out.

In his fourth at-bat, in a moment out of a Disney movie, he hit a three-run homer.

You see, Rick Ankiel's major-league career started in 1999 as a 19-year-old pitcher. In 2000, he had a very good season, and was chosen to start the first game of the playoffs. He got through the first two innings without much trouble, but no one has ever understood what happened next.

In the third inning, Ankiel walked four batters and threw five wild pitches before being taken out of the game. He pitched twice more in the postseason, and was completely unable to throw strikes either time.

In 2001, things didn't get any better. In 28 innings in the majors and Triple-A, he walked 42 batters and threw 17 wild pitches. He ended the season in rookie ball, pitching against players that had just graduated from high school.

He missed most of the next three seasons with injuries, but pitched in the majors with some success at the end of the 2004 season.

In 2005, though, the wildness returned in spring training, and he decided to quit baseball. One of his coaches, though, convinced him to try continuing his career as a hitter. He's been working his way through the minors for the past three seasons.

Today, almost seven years since a massive humiliation on the sport's biggest stage, he made it back.

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