BALTIMORE -- Ten years after his playing career ended, Jim Abbott is gearing up for his most important pitch. Abbott, a former big league pitcher who was born without a right hand, is working with the Department of Labor in a campaign to aid people with disabilities around the country. Abbott, as part of that program, threw out the first pitch at Camden Yards on Friday night.
The former first-round Draft pick hopes to educate businesses about hiring people with disabilities. Abbott, who threw a no-hitter in 1993, hopes to use his story to illustrate how people can achieve things beyond their comprehension.
"I was approached by the Department of Labor in the spring, and they told me about the possibility of [helping] people with disabilities," said Abbott. "Honestly, the statistics that are out there just aren't that great. There are people with disabilities in the United States that can work, that want to work, and aren't working. They asked me if maybe I'd think about coming out and trying to create some awareness -- try to talk to people in the business world, try to talk to the media and try to get people to look at people with disabilities the same way Major League Baseball looked at me. They looked past what I might be missing and they looked at what I could do. That's the message we're trying to spread, and I'm really proud to do it."
Abbott is working with the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, and he's specifically busy with the PITCH Campaign, which stands for Proving Individuals with Talent Can Help. He's 20 years removed from pitching for Team USA in the Olympics and 15 years removed from his greatest pro glory, but this campaign makes him more relevant than ever.
Abbott said the Department of Labor has done some work in Washington D.C., and he said his visit to Camden Yards kicks off his plan to bring his message to several big league ballparks. Abbott just wants to pay back society the same way it helped him, recognizing his talent well before he starred at the University of Michigan or in the Major Leagues.
"The thing that inspires me is people who reach out," he said. "I think back to my own childhood, the people who consistently looked at me and saw potential in me that I didn't always see in myself. As I make my way into the real world from baseball, I just try to mingle with people and spread that message of what is possible ... to look past obstacles and look at the possibilities of life."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.