Jim Abbott is a world class pitcher. Pitching for the Olympic Team in 1988, he brought home Gold. In 1999 he ended his 10 season big league career; among his greatest achievements was pitching a no-hitter for the Yankees in 1993. Finally, in 2007 he was elected in the College Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jim Abbott was a great inspiration and an icon–as demonstrated by his guest appearance on Boy Meets World just after his no-hitter–for his amazing skills on the field. Even parents loved him for being a great role model and pursuing his education at Michigan University.
He did all this and all without his right hand!
The really cool thing about that, to me, is that Abbott’s achievements were so visible. No one could argue that Abbott was any less talented than his able-bodied teammates. In fact, batters would try to exploit his disability by bunting the ball, but he was prepared and often got them out at first. I think this visibility was an opportunity for people to reconsider what disability means and what obstacles we let get in the way of our dreams.
Abbott is an exceptional player, and he got there because of his “little hand”. This may seem counter intuitive, but his little hand motivated him to prove he could do anything the other kids could do. To fit in.
When I was young my father put a baseball in my hand, and it made sense, and eventually it put me in a place where, maybe, I was a little less different. Baseball, to me, was validation. -Imperfect
Abbot just released Imperfect: An Improbable Life detailing his life story. I’ve only read bits of it, but it is a unique account where you can get a glimpse of his internal struggles resulting from his birth defect. I really love this excerpt about when he goes to his 5 year old daughter’s career day and, in front of the entire class, asks “Dad, do you like your little hand?” There is no way to do justice to his response, so I won’t even try; read it here.
He took the hand he was dealt, and inspired a generation. Now that he’s put his story on paper, this baseball legend’s legacy will be how his triumphs transcend time and will have a lasting change in the world, for the better.