Our own Cupie was able to sit down with Angel legend Jim Abbott last week.
Cupie for Halos Heaven: When you started out with the Angels, Marcel Lachemann was your pitching coach. How much of an impact did he have on your development as a pitcher?
Jim Abbott: Marcel was an incredible impact on me professionally and personally. He helped me to understand the fundamentals of pitching mechanics. He guided me through the mental aspects of the game. Most importantly he was a tremendously honest and loyal friend. He is one of my heroes
HH: When you came up as a pitcher, you threw a fastball and a hard cutter. Were you able to develop any other pitches over time?
Jim Abbott: My slider was the main compliment to my fastball and cutter. I also threw a decent curve at times. I would have loved to have a great change up!
HH: Angel fans know that you and Jimmie Reese had a special relationship. Reese certainly meant a lot to us fans. What did he mean to you and to the team at that time?
Abbott: Jimmie was another of my heroes. He was a calm funny classy person who was a delight to be around. I think he gave everyone a great sense of the history of the game, which isn't always appreciated enough.
HH: Also, could you give us any insight into the intense workout regimen that you and he developed together?
Abbott: Jimmie would hit me and the other pitchers ground ball after ground ball during Batting Practice. Not only was it a good work out but it made you a much better fielder on the mound. But working with him was always fun, I remember the laughs more than the sweat.
HH: Lastly, is it true that he could pitch batting practice with his fungo?
Abbott: He probably could in his younger days. He was a magician with that thing.
HH: What was your favorite moment as an Angel?
Abbott: Making the team in 1989. Marcel gave me the news at the Gene Autry Hotel in Spring Training. One of the happiest days of my life.
HH: It's the bottom of the 9th, two outs, and the winning run is on 2nd base. Which Angel teammate of yours would you want up to bat in that situation? Conversely, as a pitcher, which player from your era do you least want to pitch to in that situation?
Abbott: As a teammate I was a huge Chili Davis fan, Edgar Martinez was very tough to get out in tight situations.
HH: In 1992 the team was involved in an awful bus accident. How difficult was it for you and the team to continue to play baseball?
Abbott: Very hard. Especially to people like Buck Rogers and Bobby Rose, who were physically hurt badly in the crash. 92 was a very bad year for the Angels as an organization.
HH: In 1995 you watched Cal Ripken Jr. tie and break Lou Gehrig's "iron man" record. What was your experience of that historic moment?
Abbott: Amazement. Jealousy. I always wanted to be a shortstop so I could play more often! Hard to even comprehend that achievement.
HH: Are you still involved with the Angels organization? If so, in what capacity?
Abbott: I will go to spring training in about a week to mix in with the players and staff. Other than that I try to help in the community when they ask.
HH: Your list of accomplishments is amazing: you've earned the Golden Spikes Award and the Sullivan Award; you carried the American Flag at the Pan-American Games, pitched a complete game to defeat Japan for the gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, and pitched a no-hitter (as a Yankee, no less). There's no question that you were a great athlete and a great pitcher, but you transcended that by doing not just what most people cannot do, but what most professional athletes cannot do. You're an inspiration to many. What do you attribute that to?
Abbott: First and foremost I benefited from tremendous encouragement as a kid. So many people reached out to me, helped me, and believed in me even when I didn't always believe in myself. I also believe that challenges can push us beyond what we might otherwise be able to accomplish.
HH: Who was your greatest influence growing up?
Abbott: My parents. Their optimistic attitude about the possibilities of life still inspires me today.
HH: Who was your favorite ballplayer?
Abbott: Don Mattingly. He was an amazing teammate, leader, professional.
HH: When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Abbott: A baseball player or somebody who was involved in pro sports in some capacity.
HH: Lastly, what are you doing these days?
Abbott: I am doing some speaking these days to a wide variety of audiences. I am honored that so many are still interested in hearing my story. My goal is to encourage people to see the possibilities that life holds. So many great things can happen in life, if we can find our own way of doing things, and believe in ourselves, no matter what challenges surround you.
HH: Thanks, Jim
Abbott: Best of luck with the article.
Visit JIMABBOTT.INFO for more on this baseball legend.