The stuff of legend 

August, 20, 2007
08/20/07
8:29
PM ET
It doesn't matter if he ends up closer to Willie Smith than either Babe Ruth or Smokey Joe Wood. He doesn't worry about people he's never heard of or ghosts of baseball past that he can't fathom. "I only look forward," says Rick Ankiel. "I am who I am."

We have no way of predicting what Ankiel will become, not after fewer career plate appearances than 20-year-olds in the South Atlantic League or, through Monday, 31 career major league at-bats. St. Louis manager Tony La Russa thinks Ankiel eventually will hit .275 to .300 with 35 to 40-something home runs, and Lou Piniella says "anyone with bat speed that serious can be really special."

It does no good to look too far forward, or for him to go back. What is important is that Rick Ankiel, at 27 years old, is doing something most everyone else in the game deems "unimaginable." Derek Lowe said it. So did Albert Pujols. "If someone had told me this story would happen," says Kerry Wood, "I'd laugh at them."

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