Work in Sports
Abbott's moment was well deserved
By John Giannone, CNNSI.com
CHICAGO -- He is a profile in perseverance, an underdog you don’t have to feel guilty rooting for, a man who proudly wears the love of the game on his uniform sleeve.
When Seattle’s Paul Abbott earned the victory in Game 2 of the AL Division Series against the White Sox on Wednesday, it was the unlikely culmination of an arduous, wayward diamond journey that spans parts of three decades.
It was a true testament to willpower.
"I go out there for the Seattle Mariners, I don't go out there for personal reasons," said Abbott after allowing two runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings.
"For me to have my postseason start, which is a dream come true, I'm trying to keep calm and make sure I do a good job for the guys out here who busted their butts all season long."
Said Mariners manager Lou Piniella: "We were hoping for good six innings from him and that's what we got ... I think that's a good confidence-booster for Paul."
Abbott has never lacked confidence. Only fortune.
In a professional career that began 15 years and 1,584 innings ago, Abbott has battled through the anxiety and uncertainty of 10 trips to the disabled list.
It began with a dislocated shoulder in 1992, one season after Abbott pitched in 15 games with the world champion Minnesota Twins.
Persistent soreness followed for six years, a stretch in which Abbott struggled to remain in the majors. Finally, with only 37 big-league appearances, Abbott opted for surgery that either would salvage his career ... or shatter his dream.
Abbott’s professional resurrection appeared complete in early 1999, until he shredded the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Another setback. Another surgery. And more doubt.
"I’ve learned not to take anything for granted at this point in my career," Abbott said in typically understated form.
That lesson became painfully clear earlier this season when Abbott, 33 and at last a full-time major leaguer, survived his worst career scare.
On May 25, Abbott was hit in the face by a shattered bat from Harold Baines. He left that game on a stretcher but missed only one start.
Abbott finished the season with nine wins, the AL’s fourth-lowest home ERA and a most unexpected spot in Seattle’s playoff rotation.
On Wednesday, he threw enough strikes, flexed enough muscle and flashed enough heart to nudge his team within one game of the AL Championship Series.
It was a storyline warm enough to melt that omnipresent ice pack on Abbott's right arm.