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Boy Meets Jim Abbott

by Nick Vitrano

So often, when the opportunity comes to interact with a professional athlete, we end up disappointed. Sometimes the individual is just a jerk, thats true. But more often than that, the fault lies entirely with us. We tend to elevate our sports figures to impossible heights, such that they cannot reasonably meet the expectations we have thrust upon them. We expect Superman, meet Clark Kent, then blame Kent that he didn't arrive via red cape.

And then there's Jim Abbott.

Growing up, it was impossible not to like Jim Abbott. Of course, I didn't know Jim Abbott from Babe Ruth, I just gathered that he was "a good guy" from the fact that he smiled a lot on camera, was really good, threw a no-hitter, and was born without a right hand. Plus, his baseball card was worth some decent cash. He was one Superman of many of my youth, and one of countless mock interviews I conducted in those days. Of course, he was (like every guy I fake interviewed) just as I had imagined him to be...incredible.

Back in May of 2012, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim about his book, "Imperfect: An Improbable Life." It was an interview that never felt like an interview. It was a true conversation. Interestingly enough, faced with the prospect of actually interviewing the guy, I was kinda nervous. Back when I was 11, I recall being quite poised in that position. Anyway, I prepared myself for the reality that he likely was not going to be as amazing as he was when he phantomly sat across from me back in the day. Not that I was bracing for disappointment, I just didn't think it possible that he could be as incredible as I had built him up to be when I was 11 years old. And then we talked...for about 40 minutes. He was, indeed, every bit the man I had interviewed back in my youth.

Happy Birthday, Jim - one of the greats, both on and off the diamond.