Rick Ankiel returns to Nationals organization as “life skills” coordinator

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May 29, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Mets center fielder

Rick Ankiel

(16) singles to left allowing a runner to score during the ninth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mets won 9-4. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Former major league outfielder Rick Ankiel had some memorable moments during parts of two seasons with the Nationals between 2011 and 2012. Four years after his first game with the Nationals, Ankiel is set to make his return to the organization as the team’s “life skills” coordinator.

As a “life skills” coordinator, a position the team created this offseason, Ankiel will spend time with Nationals minor leaguers across all levels and mentor them in the mental aspects of the game.

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According to James Wagner of the Washington Post, Ankiel will not offer any technical baseball instruction, nor will he replace the sports psychologist that players regularly have access to. Instead, Ankiel will serve as a less formal venting place for players, and given his experience, he probably has a lot of wisdom to offer.

The hard-throwing outfielder began his career as a top pitching prospect with the St. Louis Cardinals. After making his major league debut as a 19-year-old in 1999, Ankiel had a great year on the mound in 2000 and finished second in National League Rookie of the Year voting.

Not long after that, however, Ankiel’s pitching career took a turn for the worst as the left-hander lost the ability to throw strikes. While his pitching career was over, his playing career was not, and he fought his way back to the big leagues as an outfielder with the Cardinals in 2007.

In his career, Ankiel hit .240 with 76 home runs and 251 RBIs in parts of 11 seasons with the Cardinals, Royals, Braves, Nationals, Astros and Mets.

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Ankiel was a fan-favorite during his time in D.C. and most remember him for his incredible throws from the outfield. His arm was so strong that opposing baserunners rarely tried to run on him and it was a reliable force for the Nationals no matter what outfield position he played.

Apart from Ankiel, the Nationals did not make many other minor league coaching changes and most affiliates will keep last year’s coaching staff in 2015. The Nationals did, however, promote Paul Menhart from Triple-A Syracuse pitching coach to minor league pitching coordinator. He will be taking the spot of Spin Williams, who was promoted to senior advisor for player development.

The Nationals also added Bob Milacki, formerly a pitching coach in the Phillies and Pirates systems, to replace Menhart as the Chief’s pitching coach. The team also hired Tommy Shields, who spent the past three seasons managing in the Royals’ farm system and is a former minor league infield coordinator, as co-field coordinator, filling the position left vacant by Tony Beasley, who is now the Rangers’ third base coach.

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