MONTCLAIR, N.J. -- When Jim Abbott went to career day at his daughter Ella's school, he came with his Olympic gold medal, a few baseball caps, a glove, and some of his baseball cards. He was ready to talk about pitching for Team USA in Seoul and pitching a no-hitter
MONTCLAIR, N.J. -- When Jim Abbott went to career day at his daughter Ella's school, he came with his Olympic gold medal, a few baseball caps, a glove, and some of his baseball cards. He was ready to talk about pitching for Team USA in Seoul and pitching a no-hitter for the New York Yankees. But in the middle of his presentation, Ella, then 5, raised her hand.
"Dad," she asked, "Do you like your little hand?"
Abbott was taken aback by the power of his daughter's question, and shared the same answer he gave her with a group of middle school students at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on Wednesday afternoon.
"I never thought in my whole life whether I liked my little hand," he said. "To be honest, there were a lot of times I didn't like it very much. But now that I'm old, that I've had a chance to look back, I told my daughter that I do. I like my little hand, because it's who I am. I wouldn't have gone the places I was able to go without it. It gave me a drive, an ambition, a push, to prove that I could do it."
Abbott, despite having been born without a right hand, certainly did do it. He played 10 MLB seasons for the California Angels, Yankees, Chicago White Sox, and Milwaukee Brewers, from 1989 to 1999. His no-hitter with the Yankees came against the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 4, 1993, and he retired with a career record of 87 wins and 108 losses, along with a 4.25 ERA.
Abbott was at the Berra Museum, along with new MLB Ambassador for Inclusion Curtis Pride, as part of the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society's National PLAY Campaign; PLAY stands for "Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth." Also in attendance were PLAY founder Neil Romano, who was the assistant secretary of labor for Disability Employment Policy under President George W. Bush, and MLB Senior Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion and Strategic Alliances Wendy Lewis.
Abbott and Pride addressed the students from Renaissance Middle School in Montclair, and children from St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Paterson, N.J., about overcoming obstacles to reach their dreams.
Pride, who has been deaf since birth, told the children of a list of goals he had made for himself as a boy that included, among other things, making the honor roll every year in high school, getting a college degree, playing professional baseball, and catching a 10-pound large mouth bass.
Pride went on to play in 421 Major League games across parts of 11 seasons (1993, 1995-2001, 2003-2006) as an outfielder with the Montreal Expos, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, Yankees and Angels. He finished with a .250 career batting average, 20 home runs and 82 RBIs.
"People always asked me, 'How can you think about playing pro baseball when you can't hear your coaches voice or the crack of the bat?'" Pride said. "But I never stopped believing in myself. I wanted them to see what I could do, not what I could not do."
Pride was, however, quick to point out that the largest bass he has caught to date only weighed nine pounds.
"There are still some goals I have not attained," he said. "But that's OK, because every day, we get to make a choice about the attitude we will take for that day. Only 10 percent of life is what happens to us. The other 90 percent is how we react to it."
Both Abbott and Pride talked about being underestimated, and compared themselves to the late Berra, who was told he was too small and too ugly to be a big league ballplayer. Berra famously responded, "I never saw anyone hit with his face," and went on to become a Hall of Famer and 10-time World Series champion.
"At the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, we teach children Yogi's values of hard work, inclusion and treating everyone with dignity and respect, as Yogi did throughout his life," said Museum director Dave Kaplan. "The mission of the PLAY campaign is perfectly aligned with the goals of the Museum."
The PLAY campaign, created in 2004, has conducted more than 200 events inside all 30 Major League ballparks, reaching tens of thousands of American youth with positive messages about making healthy decisions and living a more active and healthy lifestyle. The events touch on everything from healthy eating, injury prevention, strength and conditioning and education about the dangers performance- and appearance-enhancing drugs.
For more information on the National PLAY Campaign and for the 2016 National PLAY Campaign schedule, visit the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society website at www.pbats.com.
Lindsay Berra is a columnist for MLB.com.