My father and I have always had a special relationship with baseball. Any chance we had to watch a game, you would find us sitting on the couch together. The truly funny fact about that is we sometimes didn't even need to talk to each other, just watching the game was enough. One game has always stood out to me throughout the course of my life, and I don't think I will ever forget it. I remember watching the game and being amazed to see a pitcher in the major leagues without a right hand. And I remember wondering what he was thinking, as he attempted to get the last out of the game.
I can't believe I am standing in this moment. You would be surprised what some people assume I am thinking about on this September day. People always say when you have a “no-no” going you should not talk about it, or even think about it. But really, that is all that's on my mind and more. Here I am, pitching for the New York Yankees against the Cleveland Indians. How many people get this opportunity? Not many, and those people have not gone through what I have.
My parents always encouraged me. The fact that I had no right hand was not a disability, it was an opportunity. I dove into that mentality. Without them, I would not have been a two sport standout at my high school in Flint, Michigan. I would not have been an ace pitcher at the University of Michigan, where we won three Big Ten titles. And I certainly would not have won the Sullivan award for best amateur athlete in the United States. I love them, and thank them every day for the path they laid for me.
All the drills, all the practice, all the sacrifice, were worth it. Yes, it was difficult growing up without a right hand, and it is far from easy pitching with no right hand. I spent so much time practicing resting the mitt on my right forearm so I could throw with my left. So much practice to flip the ball up and remove my hand from the mitt, so I could field the ball, or throw out runners on base. I wonder if this guy at the plate will try to bunt, to once again try to take advantage of my missing right hand. It doesn't matter, the question is, what am I going to throw? How am I going to get this guy out? The point is, set aside the missing hand, set aside the jokes I've heard, set aside the people saying I couldn't do it, no matter. I am here, in the major leagues, wearing these beloved pinstripes, pitching.
It is four to nothing, and we are winning. There are two outs in the top of the ninth inning and I am thinking a fast ball outside. Here we go! I just need enough velocity and he can't touch it. And it's off! It felt right. Something about this day, this overcast weather, this game. Definitely, something special.
He hit it! A ground ball to short! Get it! Get it! The scoop! The throw! In time! He got him! Out! Yes! A No Hitter!
Do not let anyone tell you it can't be done. My name is Jim Abbott. I was born without a right hand. And on September 14, 1993, I just pitched a no hitter in the major leagues.
After watching that game I realized, like Herb Brooks always said, “Great Moments, are born from Great Opportunity”. Don't let anyone tell you what you want can't be done. And in the face of adversity, just like Jim Abbott, don't disappoint.