Rick Ankiel will always be a winner despite adversity

05/27/2017 3:52 PM - Devo

To fully understand the scope of what Rick Ankiel's dealt with, you have to read his new book; The Phenomenon

Ankiel was the poster boy of what a left-handed pitcher should be. Throwing gas from the left-side with a hook so nasty that it could make any established hitter question why he stepped into the batter's box that day. 

Game 1 of the 2000 NLDS changed the course of Ankiel's career forever. Up 6-0 against Greg Maddux and the Atlanta Braves, a wild pitch to Andruw Jones set in motion a perfect storm that no one saw coming. Looking from the outside, you never really comprehend what's going on in the mind of a professional athlete. Ankiel's book delves into those tough questions he had to ask himself.

From dealing with personal and physical abuse, self-medicating to get through a game, and dealing with the Yips; the unexplained unrelenting loss of the ability to do something you've done your whole life, Ankiel will bring to life a career that many would say was cut short, but a career that I would say was historic.

The GM’s Perspective: You touch on so many things in your story; abuse (physical, personal), drugs, alcohol, and physical and mental performance...Putting pen to paper, was it in anyway therapeutic to get your story out in the open?

Rick Ankiel: It has been since I’ve been doing all the interviews about the book release. When I was writing it I found it was easy to go back and find out who I was when I was younger. Everybody creates this image in your mind of who you are are, but now, you go back and interview people who were around you in your life and they tell you what they thought of you at that age. That was a cool thing. Not only that, but a lot of the personal stuff from my dysfunctional childhood, and to understand what I went through to where I am now, is something I’m very proud of.  

GMs: Mr. Ankiel, I have to tell you, I read your book in one afternoon. Coming from a sports background, I completely understand where you were coming from. But an outsider could pick this up and feel your angst. Did you go in with the mindset that any and everyone who picked this up (not just athletes) would be fascinated with the read and feel/understand what athletes go through?

RA: I think you really have to credit Tim Brown. I think he did an amazing job of helping the readers feel and understand what I was going through. That says something about his writing and how he’s able to do that. The ups and downs of life and the rollercoaster of life that we all go through, that’s what this book can help you understand. It’s more than just a baseball book. I’ve got letters from people from all different walks of life and they tell me they went through something similar. Hearing others tell me that it’s really helped them is very rewarding.

GMs: What kind of response have you received since the release?

RA: It’s been great. The best part is when somebody tells me they’re struggling and my story inspired them. You really begin to understand that you’re helping somebody else. I definitely understand that. As you read in the book, I’ve been there and been through tough times. I understand during those tough times how dark and ugly it could be.

GMs: There’s no other profession where you go to work and can get criticized in front of the whole world and are expected to go back out in that same environment the very next day and deal with it.  Do you think people truly recognize, not just what you went through on the field (good and bad), but what any professional athlete deals with day-to-day?

RA: I’m not sure they do. What most people see is the dollar signs and say, “well you’re supposed to deal with that?” I understand where they’re coming from, but it relates to all jobs. Whether you’re an athlete or not, you have stress and have to perform and produce at all levels. Everyone goes through this.

GMs: There's no doubt you never wanted any of what happened against the Atlanta Braves during Game 1 of the 2000 NLDS. Alternatively, the struggles you faced and what you did to overcome them (in my eyes, you overcame any and all adversity) have probably helped countless others in similar situations…

RA: I hope so. I hope I could inspire others and help them deal with what they’re going through. When I was going through my stuff, there were other stories that I paid attention to that helped me. It helps you get through that daily grind and make it to the next day and the next day. You try to keep that perspective.

GMs: Babe Ruth and Rick Ankiel will always be mentioned in the same sentence? Pretty amazing if you ask me…

RA: Being the baseball fan that I am, and to be mentioned in the same sentence as the Babe, is certainly special. I won’t get tired of hearing it.

GMs: You were a life coach with the Washington Nationals in 2015. What did/does that entail?

RA: I enjoyed it and it was a nice way to give back to the younger guys and give them advice on, not only what I went through off the field, but what I went through on the field. In addition, I tried helping them understand expectations. Sometimes you won’t always meet them. Most of the guys are coming from high school and college where they’ve dominated at that level. Now they’re at pro ball and the playing field is a little more even and a lot cases other players are better than you are. You’ll hit roadblocks to get where you need to go.

It was rewarding to help them understand that, now I work for Fox Sports Midwest as a studio sports analyst. It’s something new and am really enjoying pursuing this new career.

GMs: How do you want people to remember Rick Ankiel? Athlete or Advocate?

RA: A WINNER!

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

For NFL Undrafted's Chad Toocheck, belief is hope

05/14/2017 6:44 AM - Devo

The last time I spoke with Chad Toocheck, he was coming off being profiled on the NFL Network's Undrafted series. From being "this close" to realizing a dream of playing in the NFL and overcoming his own personal demons with drugs and alcohol, Toocheck was also dealing with being diagnosed with testicular cancer and coping with the passing of his mother, a special lady so important to his sobriety, that she continues to be the driven force behind his mission to become a better person.

I caught up with Toocheck recently, and with no surprise, he continues to changes lives and inspire others to be the best they can be.

The GM’s Perspective: Chad, it’s been approximately one year since we talked about your time on NFL Network's Undrafted and your time in the Arena League. What’s been going on since?

Chad Toocheck: Less of me and more of others. I’ve really been trying to give back as much as possible. WIth the passing of my mom last year that really opened my eyes to what my purpose is. It really has nothing to do with me. I’ve always been driven to help kids, but now more than ever I know that’s my real focus in life.

GMs: I saw a fantastic news report on the work you on doing with youth and helping them achieve their football dreams. Can you elaborate and let our readers know how you got involved in that?

CT: Last year I volunteered at the local high school, the same high school I attended. This year a position opened up as an assistant coach and I jumped at the opportunity. Everything went well during the interview process and I ended up getting hired. I have more free time in my life now so that I can dedicate it to these kids. It’s been an honour and a privilege to coach those them and to mentor them. There’s a lot of kids that want to do great things with their lives and they want to achieve great things and whatever lessons I can teach them about the real world will be more important than anything I could teach them about football.  

GMs: Being on Undrafted is a huge honor. Regardless of making the NFL or not, look how close you made it. Some people would look at that as a negative, but I’ll make an educated guess and say that the whole experience made you a stronger person, correct?

CT: Without a doubt. There’s no such thing as failure. It’s about what I’ve accomplished. There was a time I was beating myself up about getting so close and where did I go wrong? But, the plan the entire time was to be able to impact my community and impact people around me. That’s what I’ve been able to do.

I’ve used my story to push these kids to where they want to go. The most powerful thing I can tell them is to straighten up in high school (something I didn’t do). If they can buckle down, bust their butts, and focus on what they want to accomplish to become a better person they’ll be able to accomplish it. Where I fell short, they will succeed because they won’t be going into the NFL at 26/27 years old, they’ll be going in at 21/22 without any wreckage from the past to bring them down.

GMs: In your interview with Lauren Brill, you said “belief is hope” can you expand on that?

CT: It was spur of the moment. It’s funny because I got a bracelet now that says it. My attitude to what I can accomplish and what I can’t accomplish is right in that saying, “belief is hope”. If I believe I can do that, I’m hopeful for my future. Same with the kids. If they believe they can do it, in my eyes, they have hope for tomorrow. If you’re already defeated, there’s no chance tomorrow will be a success.  Belief is hope pushes me and encourages me to be a better person. I still have a lot of growing to do and a lot of changes to make.

GMs: What’s your focus when coaching/teaching kids? Obviously football is the focal point, but what other lessons have you implement?

CT: I’m very open with them if they have any questions. I don’t hold back. Most high school kids these days are struggling with identity and being comfortable with themselves. They’re always striving to fit in and striving to make this person or that person like them or trying to fit in with a certain group. I lost myself doing that in high school. I lost who I was doing that. I’ve really just tried to encourage these kids to be themselves and be comfortable in their own skin

GMs: What’s next for Chad Toocheck?

CT: I’m just taking it one day at a time. With my mom passing, that really opened my eyes to many things. Life is a gift to be enjoyed, not a problem to be solved.

GMs: Chad, thanks again. You’re impacting more people than you think, I can guarantee you that.

CT: I appreciate that Devon. You keep doing what you’re doing.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

Barfield thrives in Sugar Land

05/06/2017 8:55 AM - Devo

For all us Blue Jays fans out there, the name Jesse Barfield takes us back to glory days of Jays baseball. The late 80's club was filled with names like Bell, Moseby, Garcia, Stieb, and Key were synonymous with winning. Barfield, #29 is one of the greatest to ever put on their uniform and has a Silver Slugger, two Gold Gloves, and a home run title to prove it.

Fast Forward to present day and the name Barfield is still on baseball diamonds everywhere. His son, Jeremy Barfield was selected in the 8th round of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft from San Jacinto College by the Oakland Athletics where he spent the first seven years of his career.

During his time within the Athletics organization he put up some solid numbers. His best season came with Stockton in 2010 when he his .272 with 17 home runs and 92 RBI. Upon becoming a free agent, Barfield spent time in the Colorado Rockies organization, in the Mexican League and Independent baseball. 

Over the past couple years, the 28 year old outfielder didn't found his groove until he spent 2016 with the Sugar Land Skeeters. WIth them he played the first full season of his career since Double A Midland in 2012. 

His breakout season, which included league MVP honours, is something that's becoming common place for ex-pros in Indy baseball. With nearly 600 at-bats, Barfield led the team in home runs with 27, RBI with 85, was first in OPS (.915) second in walks (62) and second in batting average (a career high .306). 

So far 2017 is much of the same. After 15 games he's second in the league batting a ridiculous .390, and is leading the league in hits (23), home runs (5) and runs scored (14).

If this doesn't garner some interest from the scouts, I don't know what will! Stay tuned, it's probably just a matter of time before the MVP signs a minor league contract and starts the climb through minor league ranks once again.

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here

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