Jim Abbott is a former pitcher that pitched for the California Angels, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, and Milwaukee Brewers in his ten years in the MLB. Abbott threw a no-hitter for the Yankees on September 4, 1993 vs. the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium.
Abbott is a Michigan man, as he had his number retired by the Wolverines, was born in Flint, and was elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 for his career at Michigan. Abbott also won the United States Sports Academy's Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award, the Golden Spikes Award, and the Tony Conigliaro Award for his pitching, especially through adversity, as Abbott was born without a right hand.
Jim was kind enough to answer questions for Pinstripe Alley, so here is the Q&A!
Brandon C: I see on your website that you are a motivational speaker. What is the main message you tell? Do you tell any particular stories?
Jim Abbott: I have come to enjoy speaking in my post baseball life. Speaking has given me a chance to look back on my playing days and consider exactly what I learned. Because my career didn't follow a smooth arc I have the chance to reflect on both triumph and disappointment.
In the end, that is my message... That we all encounter challenge, but there is a strength and resiliency within us that we find in battling adversity.
Many of my most memorable moments on the playing field came very soon after difficult times. The no hitter I pitched with the Yankees is a good example. I look for those kinds of stories when speaking.
BC: What was the hardest part of making it to the MLB with one arm? Were scouts hesitant to suggest you, and GMs hesitant to sign?
JA: The hardest part of doing anything different is maintaining the optimism and open mindedness that there is a solution to the problem you are facing. ie: there is a way to tie these shoes, switch this glove off and on etc...
The most difficult aspect of making it to the majors was believing I could draw up the mental strength to believe that I could do it, that I was good enough to play with these great ball players.
BC: On your website there is a quote attributed to you saying "Find something you love, and go after it, with all of your heart." Is that what happened with you and baseball?
JA: Yes. But I loved all sports as a kid, not just baseball. I loved competing, I loved being on a team. I loved being in an environment where you had a chance to prove yourself no matter how you went about doing things.
BC: Going back to your no-hitter with the New York Yankees, can you describe that day? Was that the greatest of your career?
JA: Pitching a no hitter with the Yankees was an out of the blue, out of this world experience. I never knew how one day, in which so many things went right, could actually change your life a little bit. I am very excited about a book that I co wrote with Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports.
The book is about my life, but we use the 9 innings of the no hitter as the structure of the chapters. We tried very hard to recreate that day, I hope people will like it. It comes out in April.
After the jump there is more, including questions about the former and current Yankees teams.BC: You grew up in Flint, Michigan, a town with economic problems now. Do you see baseball as a dying art in Flint, or a way for the kids to escape the problems?
JA: Flint was a great town to grow up in, although it is has it's struggles these days. I have great memories of my childhood although i am sure many of the tough aspects of Flint were already developing back then. I hope that kids will always have the same opportunities that I had growing up there.
Sports provide such a great outlet for kids who want to focus on something other than the struggles they face in there everyday life.
BC: Did any particular teammate help you grow accustom to the MLB life the most?
JA: Many of my first MLB teammates with the Angels were amazingly accepting of me as a rookie. Bob McClure [now Red Sox Pitching Coach] and Bert Blyleven in particular took me under their wing. I am so happy that Bert was elected to the HOF.
BC: If there wasn't a strike, do you think the Yankees would have won the 1994 World Series?
JA: We had a good club in 94. Very confident. I sure wish we would have had the chance.
BC: Do you watch current baseball games a lot? If so, what do you think of the Yankees rotation problems?
JA: I watch baseball quite a bit, enough to know that constructing a solid, durable rotation is one of the most difficult things to do for any club. The Yankees are very fortunate to have CC Sabathia. Although he is a huge star, I still think he in underrated.
Amazing how many rotations look terrific at the beginning of any year and then crumble because of underperformance or injury. Must drive GM's crazy. In fact, I probably drove a few GM's crazy.
BC: What are your thoughts on the new MLB rules, such as the additional wild cards and the Astros moving to the AL West?
JA: I am not crazy about any changes to the game. Takes a long time to get used to the idea of teams switching leagues. I still sometimes think it is odd that Milwaukee is in the National League. MLB had a great year in 2011 I am not sure they need to rush out and make more changes. Playoff statistics and records are not even comparable any more.
BC: Have you ever considered trying to get back into the game, either as an analyst, or as a coach?
JA: I miss the game sometimes, especially playing. About once every couple months I have that same happy dream where I am back in the majors.
But I am happy doing what I am doing right now. I get to travel, hopefully try to inspire people about the amazing things that are possible in this world, and then ultimately I am home and around for my family.
If there was ever a role in the game that might allow me to continue doing those things, I would certainly consider it.
Thanks again to Mr. Abbott for the answers. Jim finished the interview by saying "Thanks for having me into your world. It is nice to be remembered so long after my playing days are over."