Famed baseball pitcher Jim Abbott has battled the odds his entire life. He was born with only one hand, but he didn't let that stop him from becoming the 15th player ever to make a professional debut in the Major Leagues. And he proved any doubters wrong by winning 12 games with a 3.92 ERA in his rookie season. Abbott played 10 seasons with four different teams before he ended his big league playing career in 1999.
After excelling at sports in high school, Abbott attended the University of Michigan on a baseball scholarship. He led the Wolverines to Big Ten titles in his freshmen and junior years and won the prestigious Golden Spikes Award, which is presented annually to the outstanding college baseball player in the United States. He had a career record of 26 wins and eight losses at the school.
As a member of Team USA in the 1987 Olympics, Abbott became the first American pitcher in 25 years to beat a Cuban team on Cuban soil. The US team won a silver medal at the Pan-American Games and Abbott won the US Baseball Federation's Golden Spikes award as the best amateur player in the country.
Abbott also participated in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games, pitching a complete game seven hitter and leading the United States to the Gold Medal in a 5-3 victory over Japan. It was the United States' first ever gold medal in Olympic baseball competition.
Following the Olympics, Abbott joined the California Angels. He made his pro debut in spring training and made it to the Major Leagues without playing in the minor leagues, which was the beginning of a tremendous Major League career. Abbott's perhaps most famous career highpoint was throwing a no-hitter for the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in 1993.
Abbott's baseball achievements include the Sullivan Award for best amateur athlete in the United States; the award for male athlete of the year for the 1988 Olympic Games; and the many awards he received at Michigan, including the Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year award.
However, the awards that best define Abbott are those that recognize his courage and ability to overcome adversity. He was named the March of Dimes Athlete of the Year twice; received the Courage Award from the Academy Awards of Sports; received the 1991 Victory Award recipient at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; and won the Freedom Forum's Free Spirit Award.
Abbott has also worked with The Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) on several initiatives to encourage businesses to hire people with disabilities.
Today, in addition to serving as a regular guest pitching instructor during the Los Angeles Angels' spring training, Abbott is a professional motivational speaker. In 2012, he published his inspiring autobiography entitled Imperfect: An Improbable Life.
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