Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jim Abbott: When what's right in front comes from what's been left behind

"Some of you may know that my career statistics weren't that great. There were some incredible highlights and some agonizing low lights. The truth is, I won't go to the hall of fame. But if a career can be measured by special moments, lessons learned, and a connection with people then I would stack mine up with oneness. Maybe there is an obligation to share. To try and learn from the experiences life puts us through." - Jim Abbott

Jim Abbott was born on September 19, 1967 in Flint, Michigan without a right hand. This didn’t stop him from always doing his best. He worked hard and overcame every obstacle in his path. From playing in the Olympics to playing in in major league baseball, Jim Abbott never gave up. Through hard work and perseverance, he was able to live just like everyone else and do what many people never get the opportunity to do.
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Early Life
Jim Abbott started his sports career in high school. He was a pitcher on his school’s baseball team and a quarterback on the school’s football team. In order to play baseball, Jim would balance the glove on his right arm. He would then pitch with his left hand. As part of his follow-through, Jim would slide the glove onto his left arm, enabling him to field any balls that came back. This method would be used by Jim Abbott throughout his career. After high school, Jim was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays. Instead of taking this offer, he decided to go to the University of Michigan on a full baseball scholarship. From there he would go on to be a fabulous pitcher with a record of 26-8.
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Amateur Years
After three years at the University of Michigan, Jim Abbott joined the USA baseball team. In 1987, he became the first American pitcher to beat the Cuban team in Cuba. As a result, the United States team got a silver medal at the Pan-American Games. The following year, Jim Abbott was able to go to the 1988 Olympics as an amateur baseball player. Jim pitched a complete, game seven against Japan with a final score of 5-3. By winning this game, Jim Abbott led the USA Team to earn their first gold medal in Olympic Baseball history. Jim Abbott was quite the amateur baseball player.
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MLB Years
Following the 1999 Olympics, Jim Abbott signed with the California Angels. Abbott continued to play baseball for ten years. Over the course of the years Jim was a teammate with the California Angels, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, and Milwaukee Brewers. Jim achieved many accomplishments as a major league pitcher. In 1993, for example, he pitched a no-hitter at Yankee Stadium while wearing pinstripes. This was the first time any pitcher had pitched a no-hitter in Yankee Stadium for the last ten years. In another game, Jim Abbott had a thirteen strike-out game! He accomplished much as a major league pitcher.
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Jim Abbott is currently a motivational speaker. He encourages people to do their best and perservere despite hardships and disabilites. Looking back at Jim’s past, it is obvious that he needed perseverance and dedication to make it into the major league. Jim beat the odds and became an inspiration baseball player. Jim Abbott can teach everyone a lesson. Despite differences and challenges, anything is possible. Never give up on your dream because it can come true, just as Jim Abbott’s did.
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Alex Zanardi Unstoppable

Alessandro "Alex" Zanardi, (born October 23, 1966), is an Italian ex-Formula One driver who is better known for his dominance of CART series during the late 1990s. More recently he has attracted widespread praise for his racing comeback in the aftermath of a crash which resulted in him losing both legs.

Alex Zanardi was born in Bologna. His sister was a promising swimmer until her death in an automobile collision.

Zanardi began racing karts aged 13. In 1988, he joined the Italian Formula 3 series, becoming a championship contender by 1990. In 1991, he moved up to the Formula 3000 series with the Il Barone Rampante team, who were themselves newcomers to the series. Winning on his F3000 debut, he went on to score two more wins that season, en route to second in the championship.
Formula One part one
By the end of 1991 he had also been blooded in Formula One: two starts for Jordan his reward for a strong F3000 campaign.

For 1992 Zanardi had to be content with guest drives for Minardi, replacing the injured Christian Fittipaldi. In the off-season, he tested for Benetton, but contracted with Lotus for 1993. Zanardi compared reasonably to teammate Johnny Herbert and was important in fine-tuning the team's active suspension system, scoring his first ever F1 point at the Brazilian Grand Prix. However, his season ended prematurely after he suffered a terrible crash during practice for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Still injured, Zanardi missed the beginning of the 1994 season, but he returned in the Spanish Grand Prix, replacing Pedro Lamy, who had been hurt in a testing crash. However, that year's Lotus was highly unreliable, and Zanardi failed to score a single point or qualify higher than 13th. When Lotus' F1 effort collapsed at the end of the year, Zanardi spent a brief time in sports cars in 1995, his Formula One career seemingly over.
Champ Car
In 1996, Zanardi made the switch to CART, having won a seat at Chip Ganassi Racing. The team's race engineer Mo Nunn advised Chip against signing him, as he believed Italian drivers were too prone to mistakes. Tellingly, Mo later signed Alex for his own team.

He rapidly became one of the series' most popular drivers. He took pole for his second race, although his first win didn't come until mid-season. In total he won three races in his rookie season, finishing second in the championship behind team-mate Jimmy Vasser (who did not win after round 5 of the season) and being named Champcar rookie of the year. He would win the championship for Ganassi in both 1997 and 1998, bringing home twelve victories.

A win came at Laguna Seca for the final race of the 1996 season, where he conducted a highly risky overtaking move at the Corkscrew corner (known to many racing fans as 'The Pass', on race leader Bryan Herta, having fought his way through the field. After winning a race, Zanardi was fond of spinning his car around in tight circles, leaving circular donut-shaped patterns of tyre rubber on the track; this would eventually become a popular means of celebrating race wins all across America.
Formula One part 2

Zanardi's CART success caught the eye of Sir Frank Williams, who inked him to a three-year contract in 1999. In pre-season testing, he was fast; however, everything went downhill from there. Plagued by numerous reliability issues, Zanardi also made a series of crucial errors, his F1 return in Australia a prime example. He was consistently outpaced by team-mate Ralf Schumacher and rumours spread that he would not last long at Williams. A late season up-turn in speed seemed to signal a breakthrough. At both Spa and Monza he looked competitive, but problems cost him a good result. At Monza he had qualified an impressive fourth and briefly held second, but brake difficulties curtailed his pace and he dropped to seventh. The season ended with Zanardi failing to maintain his Monza form; he was dropped for 2000. Jenson Button replaced him.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Prosthetic Center of Excellence dons new legs for Donny the Wonderdog

Donny the Chihuahua is almost like any other dog. Almost. He’s got two eyes, two ears and two legs.

Born to a backyard breeder, Donny’s hind legs are that of a normal dog, but his front legs are little more than stumps. It’s a condition rehabilitation therapist Maria Shinas has been working overtime to improve.

“We’re just walking him, trying to get better gait,” said Shinas.

Shinas is just one in a team of veterinary volunteers working with Donny through extensive therapy.

“At the shelter we wanted him to be more mobile and have a better quality of life,” NSPCA volunteer Jean McCusker explains

That quality is being realized with the help of therapy tools like an underwater treadmill that strengthens Donny’s trunk, and exercises to increase his range of motion. But perhaps the most unusual tools are the new legs that are in the works for him.

Kevin Bidwell normally makes custom prosthetics for human amputees.

“I own a lot of animals, or have animals as pets, but I've never built legs for one,” said Bidwell.

He says having a canine for a client has been rewarding, but it has its challenges.

“Donny tries to eat these as you can see, which is another problem I've never run into in the past; my patients previously never tried to eat their prosthetics.” said Bidwell.

Having lost one of his own legs in a motorcycle accident 20 years ago, Bidwell felt a special bond with Donny.

“I thought I was going to be disabled and I never felt disabled after I got my prosthesis,” said Bidwell.

It’s a feeling Donny will likely never understand, and that's just the way those that love him want it to be.

Web story by Courtney Holmes