In 19-99 Baseball America named Rick Ankiel the Number 1 Pitching Prospect in the Minors
He spent that season throwing strikes for the Memphis Redbirds at old Tim McCarver Stadium, producing a 7-and-3 record with a whopping 119 strikeouts in just 88-innings pitched.
That earned him a trip to St. Louis in 2000, where he went 11-and-7 and was second for National League Rookie of the Year...
And then, well, he just couldn't throw strikes anymore.
Now he's back in Memphis tearing up the Pacific Coast League.....as an Outfielder.
He is the story of the season in the baseball world.
Going from a washed up, one time pitching phenom in the Majors at age 20...to making the majors a 2nd time as an an outfielder.
Now 27, Rick Ankiel is on the verge of doing the seemingly impossible.
Action News 5's Dave Cera asked Ankiel if he's a little surprised at how well the season has gone.
"I think the homers have come a little faster than I expected, but that's obviously a good surprise. I'm feeling good about the way things are going, but to just keep progressing."
Ah, the home runs.
In his very first Triple-A- season, he's leading the PCL with a whopping 26...that's along with a .271 average, and his cannon of a left arm.
It's not IF, it's WHEN will he return to the Cardinals.
"You know, obviously i'm hoping for a call-up in September or sooner. But for me, it's just about coming here and playing day in and day out and just trying to get better at everything i'm doing everyday."
Now that Ankiel has re-invented himself as a home run hitting centerfielder, he's a lot more selective about who he talks to. In fact, a couple of weeks ago ESPN came to town wanting an interview...and he turned them down.
"Well, i'm focused on the season and all that seems like a distraction right now. You know, i'm just another minor league player having a pretty decent season. So for me at this time, I just want to focus on playing and no so much the outside stuff."
It's that exct mindset that has gotten him through the horror of a failed career as a pitcher, and back on the brink of the Big Leagues.