Jim Abbott used skill, dedication, and ingenuity to become a great baseball pitcher. He was born without a right hand, but this disability did not stop him from becoming a celebrated athlete and champion.
Abbott was born in Flint, Michigan, on September 19, 1967. From an early age, Abbott loved sports. All of the kids in his neighborhood played baseball, and he decided he wanted to join them. He just had to figure out a way to catch and throw a ball with only one hand. Abbott spent hours throwing a rubber ball at a wall and catching it with the same hand. Over time, he moved closer and closer to the wall, throwing and catching more and more quickly. This helped him develop incredible hand-eye coordination, a necessity for any great baseball pitcher. He also developed a technique to quickly put on his glove after pitching so that he could catch the ball. In a move later called the “Abbott Switch,” he would balance the glove on his right wrist where his arm ended and rapidly switch the glove to his left hand. Still, some coaches did not believe in his talent. They did not think he could make it as a professional baseball player. He would soon prove them wrong.
While playing baseball at the University of Michigan, Abbott became more confident in his remarkable baseball abilities. He participated in the Pan American Games, a major summer sporting event where non-professional athletes compete. At the Games, Abbott pitched for Team USA. The team won silver, with Cuba winning the championship. Several weeks later, Abbott and Team USA played against Cuba again. This time they played in Cuba. Team USA beat Cuba, and Abbott became the first American pitcher in 25 years to beat the Cuban team in Cuba! He also ended up pitching for the US Olympic Team, and the team won first place in the tournament. After this Olympic victory, he decided to try to make it in the Major Leagues.
Jim Abbott joined the California Angels and became one of their pitchers. Many of his opponents would try and bunt the ball to him. Bunting a ball means hitting it softly without swinging at it, so the pitcher has to quickly throw the ball to the bases. His opponents thought he would not be fast enough to take his glove off and throw the ball with his one hand. He proved them wrong many times! His many years of practice paid off.
Abbott experienced many ups and downs during his Major League Baseball career. During some baseball seasons, Abbott lost almost as many games as he won. Like many athletes, Abbott experienced both big successes and big failures. But he continues to be an inspiration to many baseball fans and those with disabilities, even off the field. Since the end of his Major League career, Jim Abbott has devoted his time to working with children with disabilities, and he speaks throughout the United States about his experiences as an athlete with a disability.