The Major League Baseball pitcher who was born with only one hand, Jim Abbott shares with audiences the keys to adapting, persevering and removing obstacles to success. Overcoming the disability he was born with, Abbott persevered to not only pitch in the Major League, but skipped the minor leagues entirely to make his professional debut—only the 15th player in the history of the league ever to do so. He also pitched for Team USA, helping win America’s first Olympic Gold medal in baseball. Yet, despite his accomplishments, Abbott possesses one of the most humble and self-effacing attitudes you’ll find, which endears him to audiences captivated by his amazing story. His willingness to adapt made him a success on the mound—and he shows audiences how they too can learn to adapt to circumstances while remaining determined to succeed. He believes that we’re all capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for, a belief that he share in proving that the potential for excellence that lies within all of us.
ADAPT – Overcoming Challenges
Major League pitcher Jim Abbott was born with only one hand, but he adapted, overcame adversity and found excellence in his 10-year professional pitching career. Abbott knows that to continue to move towards our goals we must be willing to adapt, to change, and to mold ourselves in order to meet the obstacles in our own way. Using ADAPT as an acronym, Abbott strings together a powerful set of words that provide five incredible strategies to help audiences reach their fullest potential.
A – Adjust-ability
D – Determination
A – Accountability
P – Perseverance
T – Trust
Born in Flint, Michigan without a right hand. He was an All-America hurler at Michigan; won Sullivan Award in 1987; threw 4-0 no- hitter for NY Yankees vs. Cleveland (Sept. 4, 1993). Abbott played for 10 seasons on 4 different teams and ended his big league playing career in 1999. Today, in addition to being a Pitching Instructor for the Los Angeles Angels, Abbott is a motivational speaker. Unique as a sports speaker because his story, and the way he delivers it, appeals to many types of audiences, even those who are not sports fans. In his keynotes, Abbott uses motivational sports stories of how he overcame adversity, and anecdotes from his career as a professional baseball pitcher.
Abbott has battled the odds his entire life. Despite being born with only one hand he was the 15th player to ever make a professional debut in the Major Leagues. Many considered the move a publicity stunt by manager Doug Rader, but after struggling early, Abbott proved his doubters wrong by winning 12 games with a 3.92 ERA in his rookie season.
On the mound, Abbott wore a right-hander’s fielder’s glove at the end of his right arm. While completing his follow-through after delivering a pitch, he rapidly switched the glove to his left hand so he could handle any balls hit back to him. In that first 1989 season as a professional he won more games as a rookie than any other previous player without Major League experience.
Abbott spent hours as a youngster bouncing a ball off a wall to practice fielding as well as throwing. He was the starting quarterback on his high school football team, which went to the finals of the Michigan state championship, and he showed enough promise as a pitcher to be drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays shortly after graduation.
However, Abbott went to the University of Michigan on a baseball scholarship. Abbott led the Wolverines to Big Ten titles in his freshmen and junior years and won the prestigious Golden Spikes Award, presented annually to the outstanding college baseball player in the United States. He had a career record of 26 wins and 8 losses at the school.
As a member of Team USA in 1987, he became the first American pitcher in 25 years to beat a Cuban team on Cuban soil. The team won a silver medal at the Pan-American Games and Abbott won the U. S. Baseball Federation’s Golden Spikes award as the best amateur player in the country.
Abbott participated in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games, pitching a complete game seven hitter, leading the United States to the Gold Medal in a 5-3 victory over Japan. The United States first ever, gold medal in Olympic Baseball competition.
He then joined the California Angels following the Olympics, beginning a tremendous Major League career, which included throwing a no-hitter for the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in 1993.
His baseball achievements include the Sullivan Award (best amateur athlete in the United States), male athlete of the year for the 1988 Olympic Games, and many awards at Michigan including the Jesse Owens Athlete of the year. But the awards that best define Abbott would be those that exemplify courage and overcoming adversity.
- March of Dimes Athlete of the Year (twice)
- Academy Awards of Sports, Courage Award
- 1991 Victory Award recipient at the Kennedy Center Washington D.C.
- Freedom Forum’s Free Spirit Award
Today Abbott is a professional motivational speaker. He has been featured in USA Today, Newsweek, Time, Sports Illustrated, Parade Magazine, People and Baseball America. He has been featured during Olympic coverage, and has appeared on ESPN, Good Morning America, CNN, Larry King, Phil Donahue, George Michael Sports Machine, NBC Nightly News, ABC News Person of the Week, Late Night with David Letterman, and the ABC television series Boy Meets World.
Abbott was invited to throw out the first pitch at game 7 of the 2002 World Series and recently participated in his first Yankees Old Timers Day. As a philanthropist, Abbott donated 100,000 dollars to Amigos de los Ninos, an organization that aids groups that care for children in California.
He is an inspiration to all that meet him or have followed his career. More than his no-hitter, his 13 strike out game, a seven game winning streak, overcoming an eleven game losing streak, Jim Abbott became a great baseball player and a great person. He learned to overcome adversity and be an inspiration to those around him.
Abbott lives in California with his wife, two children and their dog. His parents still live in Michigan. Abbott and his family take the Summer off each year to stay at the lake and visit with family and friends. Abbott has a younger brother.