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Where Are They Now? Jim Abbott

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Jim Abbott travels the country these days passing along a motivational message as part of his speaker’s bureau. It is quite a message from the former lefthander whose major league career spanned 10 seasons, all without the use of a right hand.

“Obviously, missing a hand growing up played a big part in who I was and my drive and my ambition,” Abbott said. “From that, you can’t help but take away the idea that sometimes a little adversity, a little challenge in our lives can be the push that we need to find the strength and the resiliency inside of us, and really to win an appreciation for the other blessings that we have.”

Abbott went 87-108 with a 4.25 ERA in stints with the Angels, Yankees, White Sox and Brewers. The numbers hardly tell the story of a pitcher who overcame a disability inherited at birth.

Abbott learned as a youngster to rest his glove on his right forearm, then shift it to his left hand after he released a pitch for fielding purposes. He became so quick and adept at the maneuver, it was difficult to track by the naked eye.

June 10, 1988

Abbott emerged as a pro prospect during his three-season career at Michigan, where he compiled a 26-8 record with a 3.03 ERA, and in 1987 became the only baseball player to win the Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete. He was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

It was widely reported that the Angels selected Abbott eighth overall in the 1988 draft as much for the size of his heart as for his pitching acumen. Before he signed for $200,000, Abbott pitched Team USA to a gold-medal finish in the 1988 Olympics.

Then the Angels made Abbott the 17th player in the draft era to debut as a professional in the major leagues.

“It just seems like it was kind of improbable the way it all played out and how quickly some of it played out,” Abbott said. “There’s things I’d like to have done better, and there’s things I’m very proud of, but all and all, as I get older I really appreciate the opportunities that I had.”

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Abbott finished fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting in 1989 with a 12-12 record and 3.92 ERA. His best season came as an all-star with the Angels in 1991 when he posted an 18-11 record with a 2.89 ERA and was third in voting for the AL Cy Young Award.

He pitched himself into Yankees lore in September 1993 with a no-hitter against the Indians. He retired from baseball following the 1999 season and has shared his message on the motivational speaking circuit ever since.

“Motivational speaking has, hopefully, made a positive impact with the message that I have,” said the 50-year-old Abbott. “That life has allowed me to be around the house a lot and raise two daughters, which I’m very proud of as well.”

Abbott and his wife, Dana, have one daughter, Maddy, who plays volleyball at Michigan, and another, Ella, who is a high school water polo athlete. They live in Corona del Mar, Calif.

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