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Publisher's Summary

Rick Ankiel had the talent to be one of the best pitchers ever. Then, one day, he lost it.

The Phenomenon is the story of how St. Louis Cardinals prodigy Rick Ankiel lost his once-in-a-generation ability to pitch - due not to an injury or a bolt of lightning but to a mysterious anxiety condition widely known as "the Yips". It came without warning in the middle of a playoff game, with millions of people watching. And it has never gone away.

Yet the true test of Ankiel's character came not on the mound but in the long days and nights that followed, as he searched for a way to get back in the game. For four and a half years, he fought the Yips with every arrow in his quiver: psychotherapy, medication, deep-breathing exercises, self-help books, and, eventually, vodka. And then, after reconsidering his whole life at the age of 25, Ankiel made an amazing turnaround, returning to the Major Leagues as a hitter and playing seven successful seasons.

This book is an incredible story about a universal experience - pressure - and what happened when a person on the brink had to make a choice about who he was going to be.

©2017 Rick Ankiel (P)2017 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Revealing, vulnerable, and triumphant, Rick Ankiel and Tim Brown provide a poignant reminder in this age of statistics- and computer-driven analysis that it is real people who play the game. Real people, carrying family history, huge expectations, and lifelong dreams along for the ride. This book will change how you watch the game and those who play it." (Jim Abbott, former MLB pitcher and best-selling author of Imperfect)

What listeners say about The Phenomenon

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great baseball memoir

Any additional comments?

In October 2000, Rick Ankiel felt like he was on the top of the baseball world. He was considered one of the best young pitchers in the game and was on the mound for a post-season game against the team he cheered for as a boy, the Atlanta Braves. In the third inning, a seemingly innocent wild pitch led to even more of them and he had to soon thereafter be removed from the game. That led to even more wildness and Ankiel was in the fight for his baseball career. But that fight was an internal one and how he handled that is chronicled in his recently published memoir.

When I saw that Ankiel was the narrator of the audio version, I decided to listen as I always believe that hearing the author tell his or her story lends an air of credibility to the book if he or she sounds honest. That was certainly the case here as Ankiel comes across in both words and voice as completely honest. While he had a difficult childhood by seeing his father treat his mother badly, he doesn’t blame that or any other external reason for his sudden loss of the ability to throw a baseball where he wanted.

When Ankiel subsequently underwent surgery on his throwing arm and still did not have success, the reader or listener will be surprised at how he decided to change from being a pitcher to an outfielder. Even though I knew the story behind his decision to change and his subsequent work to learn a new position, I believed this was the most inspiring part of his story. Late in his career, he played in another post-season game, this time for the Braves and he hit a game-winning home run against the San Francisco Giants.

He also spoke honestly about his name appearing on the Mitchell Report, the report written by former senator George Mitchell on his investigation in the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball. Ankiel states that he took human growth hormone while recovering from his surgery and at the time, he checked if it was a banned substance in the game. He stated that it was not at the time (not until 2005) and therefore he decided to use it. There was no defiance, no bitterness at being listed on the report – just stated as a matter of fact.

This statement is in line with the rest of his book – narrated as just what happened without a lot of emotions, regrets or anger. It was an audiobook that I enjoyed listening to and would recommend this book, either print or audio, to baseball fans who enjoy memoirs or a good comeback story.

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Huge fan, narration was choppy

I am a bit bias. I have only owned one professional player's jersey in my life and it is the authors. I love the story and how he came back. That said his reading was a bit choppy, in 3-4 word burst. Of course I really like it when an author reads his own story because it makes it "personal." I would recommend this book (and already have).

4 people found this helpful

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So, so good! An excellent sports memoir!

This was an outstanding book. Disappointing, yet inspirational. I loved it. I disagree with the reviewer who said Ankiel should not have narrated this. I think he did great. He is not a professional voice actor but a former MLB player and he does a fine job. It felt like I was sitting with Ankiel over lunch as he shared his story. The book is the perfect length. I remember his story as a baseball fan but loved hearing his memoir. It sent me to YouTube to try and relive the good moments and the bad. I wish that all college and professional athletes would read this book. So many reviewers say “I don’t write many reviews” or “I read a lot.” Well, unfortunately, I have to reuse those often used phrases because I read voraciously yet I seldom write reviews. But this book was that enjoyable. This is about struggles and great disappointments and realizing that what you do is not who you are. I highly recommend this book. Kindle version, audible version, paperback, whatever. Buy it. Enjoy it. Learn from it. It is a great read! Thanks to Rick for sharing his story.

2 people found this helpful

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Enjoyable book of overcoming

If you like baseball or just stories of people confronting problems and dealing with them, you will like this book

1 person found this helpful

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Great story

Even though authors of books aren’t professional narrators, I prefer hearing them read their own stories than a hired professional. It’s a brave story and a brave performance.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Inspiring memoir

Which scene was your favorite?

Ankiel's descriptions of his father and their troubled relationship.

Any additional comments?

As a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, I was already familiar with Rick Ankiel's story, but this book was still enjoyable and illuminating. Regardless of whether you're a baseball fan or not, anybody who has ever experienced self doubt will find inspiration in Ankiel's candid recollections of his one-of-a-kind journey.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Use A Professional

When I saw that the author was the reader as well, I hesitated in purchasing this book. In the end my fascination with Rick Ankiel's story won out and I purchased the audio, and regretted it. The confidence it takes to become a professional athlete can be misplaced and in the case of Rick Ankiel doubly so. The writing was good enough if you're a fan of baseball and have some fascination with the Ankiel story, but he took a step too far when he decided that he was capable of being the voice of the audio as well. Major League Baseball would never allow a deluded amateur to pick up a bat and stand in against an Ankiel. His belief that he was capable of taking on not one but two highly specialized professional undertakings wasn't wise. Let's hope that future authors will choose instead to use a professional when making their book an audio book.

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Loved it.

A baseball book like no other. It touches on vulnerability, overcoming obstacles in life, and redemption. Highly recommended from this guy.

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honest, sad, hopeful and real

wow, a real life story that keeps you hopeful and yet in reality. well written and enjoyed listening to it.

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Greatest sports story of all time!

Absolutely loved it from beginning to end, perfect insight into the mind of a sports athlete and what goes on when they are struggling.