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By Daniel J. Vance

  In high school I pitched baseball using my bare right hand to throw and my left hand to field.

  But legend Jim Abbott not only threw and fielded using only his left hand, he also won a 1988 Olympic Gold Medal, went directly from college to the majors, pitched for the Yankees, Angels, White Sox, and Brewers, and hurled a 1993 no-hitter against the Indians.

  He said to this columnist recently, "Usually only children ask (about my missing hand). I tell them I was born this way and try to explain how everybody is born in a different way. It is something that has been part of my life as long as I can remember, so I take it as being normal now. There are times when it would be nice not to feel different."

  Jim early in life "received an incredible amount of support," he said, and had numerous opportunities to pitch in little league. As he matured at the Univ. of Michigan, and later the Olympics, he used people's doubts about his abilities as a "quiet" incentive to play and star in the major leagues.

  Until arm trouble, his career was headed toward the Hall of Fame. In 1991 for the Angels, Abbott finished 18-11 with a 2.89 earned run average and placed third in Cy Young Award voting behind Roger Clemons and Scott Erickson. He ended up winning 87 games in his major league career. Of all his accomplishments, I believe his two hits and three runs batted in with the 1999 Brewers while swinging one-handed ranks right up there.

  Does he prefer being remembered as a great "one-handed" pitcher or simply as a great pitcher?

  He said, "I guess being called 'great' at anything is a good thing. My goal as a baseball player was to be the best I could be and that's how I would like to be remembered. I think being constantly put into a certain category can be frustrating. However I am very proud to serve as a [role model] to others that they can rise above people's categorizations and expectations."

  Today, Jim Abbott travels the nation as a motivational speaker. He said in doing it he greatly enjoys meeting people and sharing that "no matter our goals, we all face many of the same challenges and obstacles."

  In his spare time, he enjoys playing golf.

  For more, see www.danieljvance.com or www.jimabbott.info