No. 9 Colin Abbott

Robin
Robin Short
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Softballer who swung with 'God-given' talent still one of the best

For over a decade, he was the Ted Williams of his sport. Sure, there were faster ball players than Colin Abbott, and players with better arms. But when it came to hitting, few could swing the aluminum with the Portugal Cove-St. Philip's native.

At 37, Abbott may have slowed a little - due in part to a bunch of surgeries on his left knee - but he still remains one of fastpitch softball's most feared sluggers.

Colin Abbott. Telegram file photo

For over a decade, he was the Ted Williams of his sport. Sure, there were faster ball players than Colin Abbott, and players with better arms. But when it came to hitting, few could swing the aluminum with the Portugal Cove-St. Philip's native.

At 37, Abbott may have slowed a little - due in part to a bunch of surgeries on his left knee - but he still remains one of fastpitch softball's most feared sluggers.

Not too long ago, he owned the unofficial title as the best fastpitch hitter on the planet, and for that reason, Abbott is No. 9 on The Telegram's list of Newfoundland and Labrador's all-time top 10 athletes.

"From my perspective," said Mark Smith, the long-time national men's team coach and a former Nova Scotia pitching star, "and I've been around this game for the better part of three decades, I'd have to rank him among the top five hitters I've ever seen."

Consider Abbott's bio:

Two gold medals in the Pan American Games (1995 in Argentina and 1999 in Winnipeg)

Three gold medals at the International Softball Congress championships (1994 with All Car of Green Bay, Wisc., and 1999 and 2007 with The Farm Tavern of Madison, Wisc.)

Two silver medals at the International Softball Federation's championship (1996 in Michigan and 2004 in New Zealand)

Three gold medals and two silvers at the Canadian national senior men's championship

Three-time MVP at the ISC championship

ISC All-World player eight times

ISC batting champ in 1994

Has worn Canada's colours on the softball diamond 14 years

Three-time St. John's athlete of the year and once the provincial athlete of the year

For the past 14 years, Abbott has been flying from St. John's to Toronto or Chicago a dozen or more times every summer, spraying line drives through Green Bay, Kimberly, Madison or Eau Claire, Wisc.

After helping Newfoundland win the 1988 Canadian midget softball championship, Abbott headed for Lloydminster, Alta. where he played junior ball, helping that club win a pair of national junior medals.

Even as a 17- and 18-year-old, Abbott was making his mark as one of the best players in the local St. John's senior men's league, long underrated as one of the best senior men's club circuits in the country.

"He's the best young softball player in the province, without a doubt," said Abbott's senior coach, Kevin Beresford, back in 1988 in a Telegram story headlined: Colin Abbott: The Natural.

It was once said Williams, the Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer who was the best hitter baseball ever saw, could pick up the red stitching on a baseball delivered to home plate.

We don't know if that's true or not, but Abbott's batting eye is just as legendary within the fastpitch community.

"He's got incredible hand-eye co-ordination," Smith said, "and that ability to wait until the last second to make a commitment to swing at the pitch. It's a God-given talent, not something that you can teach."

God-given, indeed, but another aspect of Abbott's success is his penchant for game preparation. He'll study opposing pitchers, making mental notes for their tendencies in certain situations.

"I think moreso, now that my body can't do what it did years ago, that I have to prepare for the game from a mental standpoint," he said in 2007.

Early in his career, Abbott wasn't just a one-sport star.

A fine hockey player coming up through the ranks, Abbott was once drafted by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Verdun Junior Canadiens.

In 1988, he suited for the national team as an 18-year-old in its exhibition against a touring Soviet Union team at old Memorial Stadium. Abbott scored a goal in Canada's 7-5 loss to the Soviets.

"I think he can play in any hockey league in the country, and I mean any league," said Rick Babstock, his junior hockey coach, in '88.

Abbott has put the hockey stick aside. Today's, he's one of the province's most respected hockey referees.

But he's still playing fastpitch softball, and yes, he's still one of the best in the game - anywhere.

rshort@thetelegram.com




Selection criteria

The object: To select the 10 best athletes Newfoundland and Labrador has produced. Seven prominent individuals with an impressive sports background, together with Robin Short, Brendan McCarthy and John Browne of The Telegram's sports department, were chosen to make the selections.
The criteria: Athletes must have been born in Newfoundland and Labrador and spent a large part of their development years within the province. The field was open to amateur and professional, and male and female athletes.
The selection panel
John McGrath: A former Newfoundland soccer president, McGrath is chairman of the board of governors for the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame.
Brian Brocklehurst: A two-sport star in St. John's during the late 1960s and '70s, Brocklehurst was the 1969 St. John's athlete of the year.
Don Johnson: A former president of both the Canadian and Newfoundland amateur hockey associations, Johnson was also head of the St. John's Senior Men's Softball League and Royal St. John's Regatta Committee. He has served on the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and Canada Games Council.
Roger Grimes: Otherwise known as a former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, those in sports know him as an erstwhile Grand Falls Cataracts senior hockey player and Grand Falls Beothuks senior baseball player.
Terry Hart: Another Grand Falls-Windsor native, Hart has broadcasted local sports for over 30 years. He continues in radio today at VOCM.
Glenn Stanford: He's known most recently as the man who ran the St. John's Maple Leafs for 14 seasons. But before that, Stanford was a two-sport star - basketball and soccer - with Holy Cross and Memorial.
Alan (Tex) Seaborn: Seaborn has had a long-standing involvement with the Corner Brook and Newfoundland baseball associations. He served as vice-chairman and vice-president of sport for the 1999 Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook.



Top 10 best athletes

1. TBA -Aug. 23, 2008
2. TBA -Aug. 16, 2008
3. TBA -Aug. 9, 2008
4. TBA -Aug. 2, 2008
5. TBA - July 26, 2008
6. TBA - July 19, 2008
7. TBA - July 12, 2008
8. TBA - July 5, 2008
9. Colin Abbott
10. Michael Ryder

Organizations: International Softball Congress, The Telegram, Pan American Games International Softball Federation Boston Red Sox Hall Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Verdun Junior Canadiens Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall Softball League and Royal Regatta Committee Canadian Sports Hall Fame and Canada Games Council Maple Leafs

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, Canada Green Bay Portugal Cove Nova Scotia Argentina Winnipeg Madison, Wisc. Michigan New Zealand Toronto Chicago Eau Claire, Wisc. Lloydminster Soviet Union Memorial Stadium Corner Brook Grand Falls-Windsor

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • terri
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    ummmmmm, have we ever had another best player in any sport on the planet??? so colin abbott was the best fastpitch softball hitter on the planet and he ranked number nine???? thats it??? i guess number one will be brad gusue will it? because they won a gold medal in the olympics? i'm sorry, i don't agree. they did that ONCE, and then never really did much after. colin abbott was the best player in the world for years. his listing of awards i bet is definatly longer than anyone else's on this list. shame on you guys for not recognizing newfoundland's REAL athletes for what they're really worth.

  • Paul
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    I have watched Abbot several years and I think that what he has done for his sport world wide makes him top three on your list. Like the rest I can't wait to see the other names.

  • brian
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    what exactly did michael rider do?// he scored 75 goals in a 30 team over 3 years league...wow...some criteria...oh yea he scored 20 in peewee in bonavista...wow maybe he ll make it in the hockey hall of fame in TO.. give me a break....how about an athlete who was great at broomball,hockey,fastball. have anyone in mind yet....ill have to wait i guess and see if you guys are true or not...

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    It has been a long time since I have spoken to the guy we affectionately knew at Prince of Wales as The Big Bayman , but I followed his sports career for years. Back then, he was not only one of the best athletes around but also the nicest guy you ever wanted to meet. I agree with Keith - Colin is the epitome of class and is a great representative of this province.

  • Francis
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    I think Abbott should be rated higher than 9. Best in the world at his sport is a pretty tall order. I guess I will have to wait and see who the rest are. Nice column though. Where is Andy Sullivan going to rank I wonder?

  • Keith
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Congrats Abby on this great achievement...It's been awhile since our days playing with Labatts at Lions Park and up in Lloydminster. You obviously had skills on the field but what I remember most is the humble, classy way you carried yourself off the field. Great ball player, greater person.

  • Don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    Congrats Abby. If he were playing baseball in the majors, he'd be making about 15 million a year. I have to wonder why is didn't finish higher by this panel. He has been at this level for about 12 years not just a couple. Colin should have finished ahead of Gushue and the rowers and tely 10 winners to come.

  • terri
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    ummmmmm, have we ever had another best player in any sport on the planet??? so colin abbott was the best fastpitch softball hitter on the planet and he ranked number nine???? thats it??? i guess number one will be brad gusue will it? because they won a gold medal in the olympics? i'm sorry, i don't agree. they did that ONCE, and then never really did much after. colin abbott was the best player in the world for years. his listing of awards i bet is definatly longer than anyone else's on this list. shame on you guys for not recognizing newfoundland's REAL athletes for what they're really worth.

  • Paul
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    I have watched Abbot several years and I think that what he has done for his sport world wide makes him top three on your list. Like the rest I can't wait to see the other names.

  • brian
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    what exactly did michael rider do?// he scored 75 goals in a 30 team over 3 years league...wow...some criteria...oh yea he scored 20 in peewee in bonavista...wow maybe he ll make it in the hockey hall of fame in TO.. give me a break....how about an athlete who was great at broomball,hockey,fastball. have anyone in mind yet....ill have to wait i guess and see if you guys are true or not...

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    It has been a long time since I have spoken to the guy we affectionately knew at Prince of Wales as The Big Bayman , but I followed his sports career for years. Back then, he was not only one of the best athletes around but also the nicest guy you ever wanted to meet. I agree with Keith - Colin is the epitome of class and is a great representative of this province.

  • Francis
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    I think Abbott should be rated higher than 9. Best in the world at his sport is a pretty tall order. I guess I will have to wait and see who the rest are. Nice column though. Where is Andy Sullivan going to rank I wonder?

  • Keith
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Congrats Abby on this great achievement...It's been awhile since our days playing with Labatts at Lions Park and up in Lloydminster. You obviously had skills on the field but what I remember most is the humble, classy way you carried yourself off the field. Great ball player, greater person.

  • Don
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    Congrats Abby. If he were playing baseball in the majors, he'd be making about 15 million a year. I have to wonder why is didn't finish higher by this panel. He has been at this level for about 12 years not just a couple. Colin should have finished ahead of Gushue and the rowers and tely 10 winners to come.