Abbott, Colorado girl share inspiring story
Born with one hand, both overcome to excel on field
LOS ANGELES -- Jim Abbott turned a corner, walked past the dugout and out toward the mound. On the field, a high school softball player couldn't believe her eyes.
As it turns out, Abbott, a former Major Leaguer who once threw a no-hitter for the Yankees, and Jaide Bucher share a lot in common.
Both were born without a right hand, but that has not stopped either from excelling in athletics and in life. Abbott pitched 10 seasons in the Majors after being drafted eighth overall by the Angels in 1988. Bucher has played varsity softball since her freshman year.
Bucher had no idea she would meet Abbott, her childhood hero, at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., one October afternoon. The surprise meeting was part of Gatorade's "Win From Within" digital series, which profiles athletes who overcome situational, physical or emotional obstacles.
"I was shocked," said Bucher, who first heard about Abbott from her father. "He's like my idol. Ever since I was little, I've loved him. I was in absolute shock."
When Abbott learned of Bucher's story, he wanted to get involved and have a chance to meet the 15-year-old catcher from Northglenn, Colo. The two played catch, and Abbott even threw her batting practice.
"I just loved her determination and her fierceness," Abbott said. "She's so proud of what she can do. She wants to show the world. It reminded me a little bit of my own story. Just looking for a chance, looking for an opportunity not to be seen for what they don't have, but for what they do have. She's a shining example of that."
Growing up roughly 10 miles north of downtown Denver, Bucher counted former Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki as her favorite current big leaguer. She got her interest in catching, though, from an older cousin, Sophie, who played the position.
"I fell in love instantly," Bucher said. "I love catching. It's my favorite place to be."
While Bucher is used to receiving softballs, she had no trouble getting behind the plate to catch Abbott. They chatted about the game, school and future plans, while Abbott gushed about how quickly she caught the ball, transferred it out of her glove and threw it back -- all with her left hand.
"She's the best I've ever seen," Abbott said. "She's the fastest switcher of the glove. I think she's faster than I am."
If catching your baseball hero is one thing, stepping into the box to take some swings elevates things to another level.
"I just got to have batting practice with Jim Abbott," she said. "How many kids can say that?"
Not many kids can say they have overcome as much as Bucher has in 15 years, either.
"It's a great message," Abbott said. "I have two daughters and that's something as a parent you're trying to pass on: 'Be proud of who you are and wanting to show the world what you can do, instead of shying away from contact or engagement. Trudge forward, get in there and play the game.' She's stellar at that."
Still, with all the recognition and media attention, Bucher is simply a teen who loves to play the game.
"It's crazy," she said. "I just feel like a normal kid. It's weird to be filmed and have things made about me. I just feel like I'm a normal person who plays softball."