Though his autobiography is entitled “Imperfect,” the cover captures the one day in his career Jim Abbott was perfect — well, unhittable.
Abbott, a former Yankees pitcher, was on hand at Queens College to speak about overcoming adversity — a lifelong struggle for the lefty.
“If we know anything, we know that challenges will come,” Abbott said. “It comes to all of us in a lot of different forms.”
Abbott was a lefty for one simple reason — he was born without a right hand.
Dozens attended the speech in the college’s Student Union ballroom that was part of CUNY’s disability awareness month.
“He’s inspiring, even for someone without a physical handicap,” said Steven, a junior.
Abbott’s tome, Imperfect: An Improbable Life, released in April, tells the tale of the pitcher’s life growing up in Flint, Michigan, his award-winning days at the University of Michigan and on the U.S. national team and his days as a major leaguer.
“I don’t believe you have to be bound by the circumstances you’re born into,” he shared. “With strength and resiliency we all have it within us to adapt.”
Adapting was at the heart of the hurler’s talk, utilizing the word as an acronym outlining the traits needed to overcome any struggle: A: adjustability; D: determination; A: accountability; P: perseverance; T: trust.
Though the former major leaguer doesn’t like to harp on his disability, he realized that even as he climbed the ladder of success and entered the majors, his difference was always going to follow him.
In one of Abbott’s first little league games, the opposing coach had the first six players on his team bunt to see if he could field it and make the play at first.
“Six straight times,” Abbott recalled. “Two innings.”
A bunt almost destroyed his chance at baseball history on the night of September 4, 1993.
After holding the explosive Cleveland Indians hitless over the first eight innings on that fateful night, speedy leadoff hitter Kenny Lofton laid a bunt down the first base line. On his way to a sure single and breaking up Abbott’s chance at immortality, the ball bounded foul.
Lofton grounded out, followed by a fly out and another ground out and Abbott entered into the select group of pitchers over the game’s 100-plus years to throw a no-hitter and marked the crowning achievement in his unlikely story.
“It makes you think about what you can attain,” Derek, a sophomore at the college, said of Abbott’s accomplishments.
After retiring, Abbott spoke at his daughter’s pre-school career day. During his speech, his daughter raised her hand and asked, “Do you like your little hand?”
He had never thought about that, but took a second and answered.
“I like my little hand, but I haven’t always liked it, and it hasn’t always been easy. But you know what, my little hand has taught me an important lesson — life’s not easy. If you can find your own way of doing things, if you can make the most out of what you’ve been given, if you can believe in yourself no matter where you go in this world, nothing is going to stop you.”