Jim Abbot

Biography

Jim Abbott was born September 19, 1967, in Flint, Michigan without a right hand. He was an All-America hurler at Michigan; won the Sullivan Award in 1987; was the pitcher for the Gold Medal Olympic Team in 1988; and threw a 4-0 no-hitter for the New York Yankees versus Cleveland (September 4, 1993). Jim played for 10 seasons on 4 different teams and ended his big league playing career in 1999.

Abbott has worked with The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) on several initiatives encouraging businesses to hire people with disabilities.

Today, in addition to often being a Guest Pitching Instructor during Spring Training for the Los Angeles Angels, Jim Abbott is a motivational speaker.

Adjustability

Let me start with A. Adjustability. To achieve great things in this world you must be able to adjust to what is being asked. My dream wasn’t to play in the major leagues. My dream was to play baseball at all. In order to do that, I had to develop a new way of doing things. I really wanted to join in with my friends but to do that I needed to learn to play in a much different way than they did. When you NEED something, you find a way.

I can’t take credit for this. I was surrounded by wonderful people, who had the patience and creativity to help me devise the strategies I would need to get through life. Starting of course, with my parents, teachers, friends. If there is courage in my story, it was theirs. Their generosity of spirit gave me an ingrained optimism that there is a solution to be found for any problem. It may take some flexibility but it is there.

I learned along the way, that doing things in new ways always involves risk. You have to be willing to take a chance. You will also expose yourself to a lot of skepticism and those who will say you can’t do it that way. This brings us to the next word in our ADAPT chain.

Determination

Once you’ve found your way, you have to work it make it happen. Once you’ve found what you love, don’t let anything stand in your way. I don’t have to tell you that the only way to get what you want is to work your butt off. We all know that. A pitcher’s success depends on the training he puts in before he takes the field.

There is another aspect of determination that I think is equally as important. We talked about those who say you can’t. You must be determined in your belief that you can. I can think of so many examples of people who, in one form or another, questioned my playing ability.

Many teams bunted over and over again to see if I could make that simple play. One team bunted 6 times in a row.

My first college win came when they tried to steal home on the catchers throw back to me.

My point is that you have to create a strong filter that weeds out the negativity in whatever form it takes. You know what I mean. When we aren’t feeling so strong, little things can keep us down, little comments, and body language from your boss. Even our own thinking can be corrosive when we let any thought carry us away.

You have to be determined not to let someone else’s opinion of you define what you think of yourself. Only you know in your heart all the things you are capable of… Which brings us to accountability.

Accountability

Accountability: the heart and soul of my ADAPT chain. Basically, accountability says that we are responsible for the abilities we’ve been given. It is unforgiving. When we look in the mirror can we say that we’ve made the most of our talents, no matter how big or how small? Are we making the most of the potential we have in all aspects of our lives? As a father, as a husband, as a co-worker. Accountability is brutal, but we need it to keep pushing ourselves to be the best we can be.

Perseverance

Sticking with it. Life is full of ups and downs and how we respond to adversity makes us who we are. You may have seen the highlights, the good times in my career, but there were many difficult times.

In 1996 I went out and had what might be one of the worst years a pitcher can have: 2-18.

Sports had always been my crutch. For an insecure kid who wanted very much to be accepted, success in athletics covered up a lot of hurt for a long time. But in 1996 it all came crashing down. I was failing. As hard as I tried it would just get worse. By the end of they year I was sent to the minor leagues for the first time in my life. I’m not going to tell you that I handled that year with all of the grace I would have liked. All I could do was to keep on trying. The following spring I was released from the Angels. Cleaned out my locker in front of my friends and drove home alone through the Arizona desert. My whole world was upside down. I missed it so much. I desperately wanted to get back, but I was also gun-shy from going through a year and a half of failure.

Inspiration can come from unexpected places. An old manager called, he told me that he didn’t think I was finished. And that’s all it took, we started working.

Finally things turned around instead of baby steps those I started making large strides until I was able to call my wife and tell her the Chicago White Sox had just called me back to the big leagues. I could have kissed the mound. To make it back seems to me as great an accomplishment as making it in the first place. That experience illuminated to me that no matter how far we go in life we will continue to be tested. There is no finish line.

Trust

Trust is my favorite and it is appropriate that it comes last. After you’ve found your way, after you have put the work in, after you have made the most of the abilities you were given, and stuck with it, it comes down to trust. Believing in the incredible amount of work you’ve done and knowing you are prepared for anything. When push comes to shove you draw your line in the sand and say, “This is who I am.”

Trust in yourself. That belief that you can do it. Trust in yourself and believe that you can respond in any circumstance.

Jim lives in California with his wife, two children and their dog. His parents still live in Michigan. Jim and his family take the summer off each year to stay at the lake and visit with family and friends. Jim has a younger brother.

People will tell you that I overcame obstacles — maybe. But the truth is I was incredibly blessed in my life. More was given than was ever taken away.

Some of you may know that my career statistics weren’t that great. There were some incredible highlights and some agonizing low lights. The truth is, I won’t go to the Hall of Fame. But if a career can be measured by special moments, lessons learned and a connection with people, then I would stack mine up with anyone’s. Maybe there is an obligation to share. To try and learn from the experiences life puts us through.

When you play major league baseball it is easy to become self-absorbed. Your world can become very narrow. One of the aspects of speaking is that I enjoy getting out in the real world and seeing how hard people work. I have been amazed at how much their pursuit of excellence is similar to that same pursuit on a baseball diamond.

The challenge for me as a professional speaker has been to try and formulate a common language. The word that I have come up with is ADAPT. To continue to move towards our goals we must be willing to adapt. To change, and mold ourselves in order to meet the obstacles in our own way. Using ADAPT as an acronym you can put together a powerful set of words that stand alone in their significance, but they also string together like a chain in an amazing way.

A – Adjustability
D – Determination
A – Accountability
P – Perseverance
T – Trust

Throwing a no-hitter was one of the most exciting things that ever happened to me. To throw it in Yankee Stadium made is even more dramatic. That game is the greatest illustration I can think of to demonstrate the importance of trust. During that game the pressure starting mounting in the 6th inning. Pitch by pitch the fans were getting excited, and the atmosphere were becoming electric. That day the mound at Yankee Stadium began to feel like the eye of a hurricane.

Fans, teammates, result thinking, everything starts speeding up big time.

The challenge was to bring it back to laser-like focus. This pitch to that spot. Come on, now trust it. Throw this pitch with confidence.

You see i’ts that trust, that last little oomph in the delivery that makes all the difference.

It all comes back to trusting in yourself and the work you have done, you’re ready for this, bring it on.

So that is why I am a big believer in ADAPTing. Not only can we mold ourselves to the challenges that come our way. We can also break that word down into those 5 components and give ourselves 5 incredible strategies, and apply them any aspect of our lives.

But going through life with a few extra challenges has made me a better person, not better than anyone else but better than I would have been. I’ve learned that sometimes adversity can be a good thing.

There are no words to describe the impact Jim had on my business, he was nothing short of phenomenal. Jim spoke for breakfast, lunch and dinner seminars. His story touched everyone in the room with standing room only in some instances.

Many of the advisors expressed to me that Jim was the best speaker they have ever seen, some admitted to shedding a tear or two.

People laughed as they enjoyed every story Jim told and you could tell most people didn’t want it to end. Jim was gracious enough to sign and personalize baseballs and have conversations with the attendees until everyone was satisfied. I am still getting phone calls telling me how inspiring Jim was. I have seen Jim speak now 4 times and the story only gets better. I hope to have Jim back again in the future as well as my company is looking to use Jim at future venues. Also, several advisors approached me to ask if they could get Jim to speak at their engagements. As for me and my colleagues, Jim made it nothing short of a special day that none of us will ever forget.

Anthony Antorino
Regional Vice President, Prudential
Long Island & Westchester NY

Jim Abbott is awesome. You could hear a pin drop during his speech. Frankly, I am not a baseball fan, don’t really know that much about it, but it really didn’t make any difference. His speech – to me – had little to do with baseball although the stories he wrapped around his words did. We laughed, and many of us (me especially) cried as he wove his touching story of his life and experiences overcoming his handicap. He is charming, very receptive to our guests, and he was willing to take the time to go to our luncheon, pose for pictures, and answer questions from anyone who asked. I now know more about human behavior since I’ve met and heard Jim Abbott. It was a great experience.

Miriam Eaton
Event Planner, Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc.

Jim was definitely the star of our annual supplier event. People were charmed by his demeanor and presentation style and they were truly moved by his message. The feedback we got from attendees about how Jim’s message affected them was phenomenal. We try to top ourselves every year in terms of our programming for this event – but I really don’t know how we are going to be able to top Jim. We may just have to bring him back!

John Fredette
Senior Manager, Supplier Management Group, Lucent Technologies

Jim Abbott was a great speaker with a fantastic, fascinating and inspirational story to tell. He was funny, engaging and an inspiration, and he kept the group’s attention through the entire presentation and question-and-answer session. Many in our group enjoyed Jim as much as our presentation by John Wooden. Thank you for making our convention one that we will remember for a long time.

Randy Fritchie
President, Fosters Freeze

Jim was absolutely fabulous. Everyone loved him. His presentation was a perfect start to our meetings. It really pumped everyone up. Everyone is still talking about how great it was to have him here. They were really impressed. When Jim spoke, you could hear a pin drop in the room because everyone was 100% focused on what he had to say and he has a great message that is appropriate for anyone to hear.

Erin McCarthy
Director of Marketing, LASON, Inc.

Jim, I’ve been producing events like these for over 20 years. In that period of time I have NEVER experienced the deafening silence in a crowd that large, all of whom had their minds, hearts and souls transfixed on your speech. You touched the hearts of each and every person on the Civic Center, and your message of adaptability, determination and trust is now embossed on the spirits of hundreds of community leaders. The e-mails and voicemails filled with kudos and praise have been unending since the meeting this morning. You’re going to be a VERY tough act to follow.

Deke Rothacker
Vice President of Marketing, United Way, Poughkeepsie, NY

Jim was fantastic! The audience loved him.

Rocco Donnino
VP of Sales, Sybari Software Direct

It is a pleasure to work with such a famous athlete who delivers such a relevant and motivational message. Jim Abbott represents the kind of role model we would like to see in all of our professional athletes.

George Klaus
Chairman, President and CEO of Epicor Software

Jim was well received by all who attended the banquet. Despite the trying time getting to Greenville and having to sleep in the airport, he remained very pleasant and easy going. I am so glad Jim Abbott decided to come to Greenville and be our motivational speaker. WOW! We have heard nothing but positive comments. I don’t know how late Jim stayed after the banquet, but he signed numerous baseballs and programs for all who wanted his signature at no extra charge. He really is quite incredible.

Rita Leggett
Eastern Carolina Vocational Center

Jim was very well received. EVERYONE just adored him. His talk was great and the feedback on the conference evaluations concurred that people enjoyed him. We would invite him back anytime to speak! The way he presents the ADAPT concept is a great way to motivate with information.

Shannon Trierweiler
Wyoming Associations for Persons in Supported Employment (WYAPSE)

He was wonderful – everyone said how great he was – our top people were so impressed. He gave inspiring words, not trying to be funny at every other remark, instead humorous throughout. He kept their attention and charmed everyone. We loved the reports from our attendees.

Tony Filippis Sr.
Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame

Jim was one of our best speakers. His message was upbeat and well delivered. We enjoyed him very much. We would have him back!

Deborah Ridolfi
Johnson & Wales University

 
Speaker Directory
Topics/Fees/Keywords