Former Major League pitcher shares inspirational story at benefit in Carmel Valley

Baseball great Jim Abbot speaks at Torrey Pines High School.  Photo/Jon Clark
Baseball great Jim Abbot speaks at Torrey Pines High School. Photo/Jon Clark

By Karen Billing

Former Major League pitcher Jim Abbott was born without a right hand but he never let it be an excuse, he never believed he was different and he never let it stop him from accomplishing his dreams.

Abbott shared stories of his inspiring baseball career at Torrey Pines High School on March 6.  The event was presented by the Torrey Pines High School Foundation to benefit the TPHS Baseball Program and it turned out to be the most successful fundraiser ever held for the baseball program.

Abbott spoke of the joys of his baseball life, from getting his first baseball card at his locker during spring training as a 21-year-old rookie to the improbable thrill of throwing a no hitter wearing the pinstripes in Yankee Stadium.

Most importantly, he talked about his ability to adapt, a lesson that he believes anyone can apply to everything.

“What’s important is how you respond to challenges because challenge comes to us all,” Abbott said.

When challenge comes, he said the question is always the same: “What are you going to do about it?”

“I believe there is strength and resiliency in all of us,” Abbott said.

A close friend of Torrey Pines’ new head baseball coach Kirk McCaskill, whom he played with in the Angels organization, Abbott now resides in Orange County.

Abbott was raised in Flint, Michigan and was a standout pitcher for Flint Central High School, where he also played quarterback.

He fulfilled a dream of playing baseball for the University of Michigan and won two Big 10 championships in his freshman and junior year. He had a career 26-8 record at Michigan and saw his number retired by the school in 2009.

In 1987 he became the first baseball player to win the Sullivan Award, the top amateur sports award, and played for Team USA in the 1988 Pan American Games, part of the first American team to beat Cuba in Cuba. Abbott was also on the mound at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, pitching a complete game to help the U.S. beat Japan in the gold medal game.

The Angels drafted Abbott eighth overall and he went straight to the Major Leagues without a stop at the minors, enjoying a 12-12 record, the most games won by a rookie without playing in the minors.

He won 18 games one season and finished third in the American League Cy Young votes. In 1993 Abbott threw a no hitter as a member of the New York Yankees.

Last year he released the book “Imperfect: An Improbable Life” with Tim Brown and Abbott works as a motivational speaker, sharing his lessons in the word “Adapt.”

He preaches the lessons of the word “Adapt” and also breaks it down into its component letters.

A for adjustability; D for determination, the courage and awareness to block out negativity; A for accountability, the obligation to make the most out of what we’ve been given; P for perseverance, the refusal to quit; and T for trust, “know what it is that is your strength, follow through without hesitation, without fear, with conviction and trust,” he said.

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