Rick Ankiel talks upcoming book, admits he drank vodka before game to deal with yips

The story of Rick Ankiel, the former prodigy pitcher who turned into a Major League outfielder after his psyche crumbled one October afternoon in the 2001 playoffs, is one well-known among Cardinals fans.

Ankiel, who has a book on his life coming out on April 18, joined The Ryan Kelley Morning After live from Cardinals Spring Training Monday to discuss the project and reflect on his career. He also admitted he drank vodka before taking the mound April 8, 2001 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It was his last win as a Major League starting pitcher.

Read some excerpts and listen to the full interview below (starts at the 5:50 mark):

How proud of you are you for writing this book?

“Very proud. It took a long time. Over three years, going back and forth with the writer. We’re finally at the finishing line here. It should be fun.”

What do you think readers will learn from this book?

“I think the overall lesson from the book is about getting back up. You’re going to get knocked down…everyone gets knocked down. There’s definitely those lessons in there when you look at my story. Now I got it all out there…I didn’t talk about what I was going through mentally when I was going through it. You have to pat the writer on the back for (really putting you in my head and understanding what I was going through in those moments).”

On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:

“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yips, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”