It’s hard enough trying to break into Major League Baseball as it is, but imagine doing so with just one hand. Jim Abbott never had to imagine. Since birth, he was born without his right hand. That never stopped him from pursuing his dream, though.
Not only did Abbott make it into the big leagues as a pitcher, but he made history and inspired millions in the process.
When Life Gives You Lemons
Since Abbott was born without a right hand, he learned early that adapting to the world in his condition was essential for survival. Abbott didn’t let anything stand in his way, especially not baseball. As a boy, he learned to play ball just like any kid in the neighborhood. The only difference being he had to invent a method to catch and throw with the same hand.
It was this method Abbott continued to use his entire life. He practiced by throwing balls against his family’s house. When the balls bounced back, he had to get the glove off as fast as possible to avoid chasing the ball down the street. Eventually, this evolved into Abbott switching the glove between hands without even a second thought.
In his biography, Abbott states this process was “unquestionably a process of trial and error. Whatever you do though, don’t give up.” As you’ll see, this Abbott stood by this philosophy throughout his life.
Making A Name In Michigan
Throughout high school, Abbott was a standout pitcher and quarterback. Michigan was already aware of his greatness and it started to catch on in the professional baseball league.
As a result, the Toronto Blue Jays drafted Abbott in the 36th round of the 1985 MLB draft, but he did not sign. Instead, Abbott opted to head to the University of Michigan. There, he played baseball for three years, leading the team to two Big Ten championships.
After proving himself in college, Abbott got his chance once again in the pros. This time, the California Angels drafted Abbott 8th overall in 1988. Now, his unique pitching ability would be displayed on the world’s largest baseball stage. Abbott was determined not to disappoint the millions of curious fans.
A Glorious Climax
“The no-hitter was the highlight of my career. The specialness of it, I didn’t know how lasting it would be when it happened.” Abbott wasn’t the only one on September 4, 1993, who felt the special energy at Yankee Stadium.
That day, Abbott’s undying efforts came to a glorious climax when he pitched a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. He describes the day as being akin to an out-of-body experience. “For a tiny second, you’re outside yourself.”
Having since retired, Abbott uses his story as a motivational tool in lectures around the country. So next time you think the world is against you and you’re up against defeat, think of Jim Abbott. He fought hard against a life of challenge, yet it wasn’t nearly enough to stop him from achieving greatness.