Rick Ankiel grew up a Braves fan, but says he’s rooting for the Nationals to go all the way

July 30, 2014

(Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Former Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel, who retired this spring after an 11-season career that spanned 15 years, joined Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler in the Nationals radio broadcast booth for part of Tuesday’s loss to the Marlins.

In addition to doing a lot of golf and fishing, Ankiel, who boasts one of the more interesting career arcs of any recent major leaguer, said he’s been working on an autobiography with Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown. The short version: After beginning his career as a phenom pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Ankiel mysteriously lost the ability to throw strikes and reinvented himself as an outfielder. He said he’d like to stay involved in baseball in some capacity, perhaps as a scout or broadcaster.

“There is no analyst who has been a pitcher and a position player,” Slowes suggested. “I think you offer something that no one else could bring to the booth.”

Ankiel, who went to the playoffs with the Braves in 2010 before joining the Nationals the following year, was later asked where his loyalties lie in the National League East race.

“I’m rooting for you guys,” said Ankiel, who played for six different teams. “I grew up a Braves fan and a Bobby Cox fan, and it was really nice to get to play for him. But they’ve been there so much and I’m always rooting for the underdog. I feel like for the Nationals, with the talent that we have, and the talent that’s here, the pitching staff, the guys they have around them, they have a special chance and it would be nice to see them go all the way.”

Ankiel also told a funny story when reminiscing about one of his legendary throws, a cannon from center field to nail the Reds’ Dave Sappelt and preserve a ninth-inning tie during a game at Cincinnati in 2011.

“That was a big one because of the situation of the game,” Ankiel said. “… I actually had a flight to go home for the off day,” Ankiel said. “We were starting to go into extra innings, and when I picked up the ball, the thought went through my mind, if I throw this guy out, I’m not catching the flight home. But there’s no way you’re not throwing the guy out.”

The Nats would go on to lose in the 14th inning on a Joey Votto walk-off homer, and Ankiel probably missed his flight. His book should be good.


(Original image via MASN)

Thanks to @tomcblock.

Scott Allen writes about all things D.C. sports. Follow him on Twitter @ScottSAllen or e-mail him if you’ve got a tip to share.
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Dan Steinberg · July 30, 2014

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