Former pitcher/outfielder Rick Ankiel had perhaps the most watched battle with the yips, also known colloquially as “Steve Blass Disease,” the sudden inability to throw a baseball to its intended target. In Game 1 of the 2000 NLDS against the Braves, Ankiel uncorked five wild pitches in the third inning and was unable to complete the frame.
Ankiel wrote a book about his experiences, titled, The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed my Life. As Craig wrote about earlier this year, Ankiel said he drank vodka before that Game 1 start against the Braves. Ankiel said of his anxiety, “It didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
USA TODAY has a great feature on mental illness in sports by Scott Gleeson and Erik Brady. Ankiel is one of the athletes profiled. Speaking about athletes’ reluctance to seek help, Ankiel said, “There’s such a stigma, especially with men, that you can’t falter, and that you shouldn’t get help.”
Sadly, many fans find it hard to empathize with athletes who face these problems because of the notoriety and money they have. Ankiel said, “We’re getting paid millions, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune to inner pain and torture.”
The whole thing is worth a read, but if you just care about baseball, then Ankiel’s section should get five minutes of your time.