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Where've you gone, Glenn Abbott?
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06/16/2002  4:58 AM ET 
Where've you gone, Glenn Abbott?
Original Mariner enjoys working with minor leaguers
tickets for any Major League Baseball game

SEATTLE -- In the beginning, the Mariners had a tall, lanky right-handed pitcher they acquired in the Expansion Draft from the Oakland Athletics. His résumé included 11 wins for a team that won World Series championships in 1973-74 and reached the American League playoffs in 1975.

But with the Athletics being decimated by free-agent defections, and his former Oakland pitching coach becoming the Mariners' pitching coach, Glenn Abbott welcomed the move from an organization with a history of winning to an organization with no history at all.

"Wes Stock, my pitching coach in Oakland, had gone up there, and I was excited about going to a new ballclub," said Abbott, Seattle's second pick in the draft. "But I never dreamed the team would be so crummy. I went from an A's team that had won three straight World Series with still quite a few veterans on it, to a team of young guys who didn't know what they could do."

Abbott spent seven years with the Mariners, posting a 43-63 record for teams that consistently lost at least 100 games a season and changed players the way most people change socks. When Spring Training opened in 1983, Abbott was the only original Mariner player still around.

"Dave Niehaus (the team's play-by-play announcer) and I were the only people in the organization who had been there from day one," Abbott said.

And then there was one after the Mariners traded Abbott to the Tigers that summer.

Now 51 and a two-time grandfather, Abbott is spending this summer serving as pitching coach for the Class A Modesto (California League) Athletics. During the winter, he lives in Arkansas with his wife, Patti, and near their three children -- Todd (28), Jeff (25) and Amy (22). The Abbotts will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary later this year.

Their oldest son followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a pitcher in high school and then at the University of Arkansas. The Athletics drafted him in the 40th round and he spent four years in the A's farm system -- getting instruction from his dad.


"I tell [minor leaguers] I won 12 games for the Mariners twice and they aren't too impressed. Then I tell them 12 wins was about 20 percent of the games the team won those two seasons."

-- Glenn Abbott

"Todd had reached a point in his career that if he didn't get promoted to Double-A, he was going to quit," Glenn recalled. "He was married and knew he had to get on with life if he didn't have a career [in baseball]."

The young Abbott didn't get promoted, and instead retired and returned to school to get a teaching credential. He is now a teacher and baseball coach in Bentonville, Ark., and his team recently won the state championship.

On a different kind of scale, dad also has moved upward over the years.

"I'm still tall, but I'm not lanky," he quipped. "I am about 50 or 60 pounds over my old playing weight. Uh, I guess you'd say I'm thicker. It's funny, but the older I get, the better the food tastes."

Abbott has been in the Athletics' minor league system for the past 13 seasons, working with the likes of current A's pitching stars Mike Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito.

"I really enjoy working with the kids and always have," he said. "Maybe I'm a minor leaguer at heart."

Abbott's days as a minor league player were behind him when the Mariners plucked him from the list of players made available in the expansion draft. He spent Spring Training in the early- and mid-'70s around future Hall of Fame pitchers Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers, along with such great players as Vida Blue, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando and eventual Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson.

"It was a culture shock going from those great teams to the Mariners," Abbott said. "I went from one spectrum to another, but it also was great fun. We didn't win many games and the Kingdome was pretty empty most of the time, but there are some great memories."

Abbott speaks with pride when he discusses the 12 games he won for the Mariners in their 1977 expansion season, the first of his two career-best 12-win seasons. He was 12-12 in 1980.

"When any of the kids in our system ask about my career, I tell them I won 12 games for the Mariners twice and they aren't too impressed," he laughed. "But then I tell them 12 wins was about 20 percent of the total number of games the team won those two seasons."

He won't go so far as to say that he was the staff ace. "I'm not sure we had a staff ace," he said.

Asked about his most memorable moment with the Mariners, Abbott said it was his first MLB start in 1983. He had missed the entire '82 season because of injury and illness. Bone chips were removed from his right elbow during Spring Training and then, after his first rehab start with Triple-A Salt Lake City, he came down with a mysterious ailment.


"I enjoy working with the kids just getting started in this business. They are eager to learn. It's almost like a daddy with his own kids and I really enjoy that."

-- Glenn Abbott

"I kept losing weight and didn't have any energy," he said. "I was in bed for about three weeks and the doctors thought it was just a virus. But I kept having bad headaches, blurred vision and lost some of my hearing. I lost something like 30 pounds. One doctor thought I had multiple sclerosis."

The ailment finally was diagnosed as viral meningitis.

"It took me a full year to get over it From one June to the next."

Abbott resumed his career and worked his way back to the Mariners, getting a start in June, 1983 at the Kingdome against the Kansas City Royals. "I pitched a complete game and won," he said.

Although he recovered from the illness, Abbott said he never fully regained all of his hearing. But he did get to know about viral meningitis and was able to share his experience with Adam Piatt, who is now playing for Oakland, nearly a year after having the illness.

"I think I helped him deal with it," Abbott said. "I'm not sure people realize what it does to you."

But that is what Abbott does these days. He talks and he teaches.

"I feel like I am giving something back to the game," he said. "I didn't make a lot of money, but got a chance to play in the Major Leagues and that's all I wanted. I still have gusto for the game and enjoy going to the park every day.

"I enjoy working with the kids just getting started in this business. They are eager to learn and that makes it fun. It's almost like a daddy with his own kids and I really enjoy that."

Jim Street covers the Mariners for MLB.com and can be reached at mlbjstreet@aol.com. This story was not subject to the approval of MLB or its clubs.






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