No. 9 Colin Abbott

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

Robin Short rshort@thetelegram.com
Published on June 28, 2008
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.

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