Believe in Possibilities


Like most fathers, Mike Abbott imparted sayings to his children he hoped would stick in their minds as they found their way through life. His went something like this: “What is taken away once is given back twice.”

That phrase would typically apply to those temporary setbacks many kids experience, from scraped knees to trouble at school to a best friend moving away. However, Jim Abbott, the child those words were meant most for, was different – facing what most would consider a lifelong setback – being born without a right hand.

Abbott003But what was taken from him in the womb led to life that has given Jim Abbott so much more than he ever could have imagined, proving how true those words really are.
The Flint native’s inspiring story is well-documented.

Missing a hand did not stop him from becoming one of Michigan’s best high school baseball pitchers, a University of Michigan All-American and Olympic gold medalist. He is also the only player to win the Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete and during his ten-season Major League career, he pitched a no-hitter.

“My parents always encouraged me to try anything I wanted to do and not let my disability hold me back,” says Abbott, now 47 and living in Corona del Mar, California with his wife and two teenage daughters. “They didn’t try to shield me from anything and life has certainly not always been easy for me – there have been a lot of struggles – but being born with only one hand has actually turned out to be such a blessing.”

Like his father before him, Jim is full of encouraging words, but not just for his children. His “Improbable Life,” also the subtitle of his 2012 autobiography, has led to a busy schedule of public speaking engagements and work with children’s organizations as he continues to have an impact on the lives of others.

Those things along with being immersed in family activities sum up what Abbott’s life is like today and he’s drinking in every moment of it.

“The biggest thing for me now is simply enjoying this phase of family life. Watching my girls grow up and following all their activities has been a big priority,” he said. “I have also developed this great, post-baseball career of speaking to all kinds of groups of people and doing charity work which is very satisfying. We live in a really nice community and life has been good.”

Jim-Abbott-BallparkJim still speaks with the same zeal and optimism about life’s possibilities that were evident when the media first began interviewing the one-handed kid who was mowing down batters at Flint Central High School and batting over .400.

“The message I try to convey the most when speaking is to believe in what might be attainable and go for it with all you have and to believe in the possibilities life has to offer,” Abbott says. “Don’t worry about whatever you might think is holding you back, a disability in my case, and go after your dreams. I always mention how growing up in the gritty, resilient town of Flint helped shape me into the person I am and helped make my success possible.”

Abbott, whose No. 31 University of Michigan jersey was retired in 2009, also recently celebrated a family milestone. Daughter Maddy will wear a Wolverines’ uniform next fall after signing with U of M’s volleyball program.

“Maddy was recruited by different schools and I wanted it to be her decision, but I was just over the moon with excitement when she signed with Michigan,” a beaming Abbott said. “To know that I’m going to see her wear the block M and seeing how excited she is about the whole thing, it’s been amazing.”

Looking back, Abbott points to winning the Olympic baseball gold medal in 1988 as his most thrilling athletic achievement. He was the winning pitcher as the United States defeated Japan in the gold medal game.

“It was just an incredible moment to be on the mound and getting those final three outs was really magic,” he said. “To share such a moment with the 25 other guys I worked with for months to achieve was really special. The no-hitter was amazing, but it was more an individual accomplishment for me. The gold medal was such a strong team effort.”

Jim retired from baseball in 1999 after earning roughly $14 million and winning 87 games in ten seasons. Five years later, he was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
True to his nature, he is excited about whatever the future may hold.

“I have never been a great planner, but I like to take life as it comes and appreciate things,” he said. “I just want to enjoy this time with my daughters because it goes by so fast and being involved in their lives is so rewarding. I appreciate that every day. When my youngest daughter (who is in eighth grade) goes off to college, I’ll take a look around and think about what’s next.”

Regardless of what’s next, Abbott will undoubtedly continue to feel that life has given him far more than it has ever taken.

“Don’t worry about whatever you might think is holding you back, a disability in my case, and go after your dreams.”


Photography provided by Los Angeles Angels & John Traub / Albuquerque Isotopes Baseball Club


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