Rick Ankiel said that he drank vodka in 2001 prior to the first two starts he made in order to quell his anxiety after he threw five wild pitches during one inning in the playoffs the previous season.
Ankiel released in detail his experience while being interviewed on Monday.
In 2000, Ankiel was a promising rookie at the age of 20 when he played for the St. Louis Cardinals. However, he lost control of his pitches during the postseason.
He pitched the Cardinals’ opening game against Atlanta in the National League Division Series and became the first pitcher in the major leagues to throw five wild pitches during the same inning.
Ankiel said that he was very scared the following season prior to his first start against Arizona and the Diamondbacks ace Randy Johnson. He decided alcohol would suppress his nervousness.
He said he took a bottle of vodka and just started to drink it and before he knew the anxiety was gone and he was able to accomplish what he wanted.
In that game in 2001, against the Diamondbacks, he pitched a strong five innings and won.
He said he thought to himself that he needed vodka to calm his nerves and said that it was the first time he had ever drank alcohol prior to a game.
Ankiel said he drank again prior to his next start versus Houston. That time he said his anxiety took control and the alcohol did not suppress his nerves. His control was bad as he walked five, threw one wild pitch and hit one batter.
Ankiel said after that, he never drank prior to another game. The former pitcher has co-authored a book about how anxiety affected his life. The book is set to be released April 18.
In 2000, he was second in voting for rookie of the year prior to falling apart during the postseason. He appeared twice more after his five wild pitches against Atlanta during the postseason and threw four wild pitches in just 1 1/3 innings.
The former pitcher never regained form and his last pitching appearance was in 2004. He did return in 2007 with the Cardinals and played in the outfield. He played until 2013.
Ankiel said that the overall lesson in the book is getting back up again after a fall. You may be knocked down again as everyone is at some point, but getting back up is what is important.