March 30th marked the opening day of Major League Baseball. So that’s right… Baseball is in full swing!
We thought there was no time better to take a trip down memory lane and showcase some MLB stars with disabilities who didn’t let anything stand in the way of their dreams. Get inspired by uplifting
stories of those who defied all odds and overcame obstacles to make it big on their terms!
Tarik El-Abour is the first professional baseball player diagnosed with Autism. At age 10, he realized baseball was his passion, and he would do anything to play. He was always the first on the field and the last to leave. After many years of practicing, Tarik was contacted by former Kansas City Royals right fielder Reggie Sanders. The Royals agreed to let Tarik join their batting practice. After seeing how easily Tarik fit in with the players, Sanders approached general manager Dayton Moore to offer Tarik a minor league contract. It was right then and there that Tarik El-Abour knew his dream had come true.
Abbott was a true trailblazer; he built himself up despite being told all his life that playing baseball was nearly impossible because he was born without a right hand. Jim Abbott had an unrelenting spirit and sheer determination. He quickly became one of the most celebrated athletes in major league history to have a disability. His crowning achievement came when he pitched a no-hitter in 1993 for the New York Yankees! He proved anything is achievable if you set your mind to it.
Born Deaf in 1968, Curtis Pride’s dreams were not silenced. Pride broke boundaries as he went on to play in the major leagues for 11 seasons. Pride was a multi-sport athlete with a heavy love for baseball. Communicating with signals allowed those who were Deaf or Hard of Hearing to hardly notice a difference. Pride’s best season was in 1996 as a member of the Detroit Tigers when he received a career high of 301 plate appearances. Pride will always be an inspiration that cannot be overlooked!
Chad Bentz was born with one hand, similar to the aforementioned Jim Abbott. Interestingly
enough, Abbott became Bentz’s mentor. A native Alaskan, Bentz also had to overcome geographical obstacles to become a major league pitcher– he’s one of three Alaskans to ever play in the big leagues. Making his MLB debut in 2004, Bentz pitched in 40 Major League Baseball games, displaying that being born with only one hand only made him stronger.
Freddy Sanchez never thought he could do what he loved after being born with a club right foot and a left foot that was severely pigeon-toed. On only his second day of life, he already had casts on both legs, which was the first of many medical attempts to help Sanchez. “Can’t was not in our vocabulary as a family,” stated Sanchez’s mother. Sanchez went on to have a successful career in the Major League, winning a batting title in just his second season in 2006 and becoming a three-time All-Star. Freddy Sanchez was not letting anything get in his way.
Known for his famous nickname “Three-Finger,” Mordecai Brown was the ace right-hander of the Chicago Cubs teams. His nickname was drawn from a farming accident that left him with only three fingers on one hand. This made Brown stand out because he could pitch a baseball like no one else by throwing the ball with a unique and forceful curve that no one could replicate. Brown would go on to win 239 games in the major league, forever being remembered as a force to be reckoned with.
Jim Eisenreich had an astonishing 15-year career in the Major Leagues. He was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at an early age, but he did not let that stop him from playing the sport he loved. Instead, he became an inspiration to others. Eisenreich and his wife founded the Eisenreich Foundation for Children with Tourette’s Syndrome, letting him travel the world to tell his story. His baseball career had lots of highs, such as hitting a .290 in over 1,400 games played! He continues to be an inspiration to all.
Known for his hitting heroics in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, David Freese was battling something no one would have known by just looking at him. The veteran infielder had depression, something he’d been living with his entire life. Freese was not one to shy away from help. He’s been very vocal about his depression, and the counseling and support he’s received from family and friends led him to profound improvements. He continued to play the sport he loved and, in 2019, had one of the best seasons of his career before retiring. David Freese is just one of many battling with mental illness and shows that it is never too late to ask for help.
These are just a handful of MLB players who have been able to do amazing things even with a disability. They’re an inspiration to everyone and show that anything is possible!