Washington Nationals center fielder Rick Ankiel, making his first visit to St. Louis as a visiting player, showed his appreciation to the St. Louis fans for their decade of support by taking out a half-page ad in Wednesday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports section.
Ankiel’s decade-long run with the St. Louis Cardinals was unique – in that he was first, a starting pitcher and then, an outfielder. In 1999, at only 19 years old, he pitched his first game for the Cards. The next season, he had a couple of unfortunate control meltdowns during the 2000 playoffs. After tolling in the minors and having Tommy John surgery, Ankiel announced in 2005 that he was switching to the outfield. Long story short, he returned to the Cardinals and Busch Stadium in August 2007 as an outfielder and hit a three-run homer in his first game back! He ended up leaving the Cardinals in 2010 for the Kansas City Royals. In the 2011, he signed with the Washington Nationals and is the team’s starting center fielder.
How unique is Ankiel? He is the first player since Babe Ruth to have won at least 10 games as a pitcher and also hit at least 50 home runs. Ankiel is also the only player other than Ruth to both start a postseason game as a pitcher and hit a home run in the postseason as a position player.