'Just Another Player" It May Sound like a Rather Unremarkable Description for a 14-Year-Old Baseball Player, but It's High Praise for How Pat Dawson Fits in with His Teammates and the Game He Loves

Article excerpt

Byline: Aaron Gabriel Daily Herald Sports Writer

A few minutes with a major-leaguer changed Pat Dawson's life.

Several years ago, Dawson, now a 14-year-old Palatine baseball player, had the chance to meet Jim Abbott briefly at old Comiskey Park.

Abbott, you may recall, was an effective big-league pitcher for several years with the California Angels, New York Yankees and White Sox. Before he made his mark in the big leagues, Abbott already was well known because he'd found a way to excel in college baseball with the full use of only one of his arms.

This season, Abbott has been attempting a comeback, toiling in the minor leagues for the White Sox. He spent most of the season with the Class AA Birmingham Barons before earning a promotion to the Class AAA Calgary Cannons recently.

Another promotion, back to the big leagues, may be in his future. Whether it happens or not, Jim Abbott has already succeeded in changing one boy's life.

"He showed me I wasn't the only one," Pat said. "I mean, my parents are great role models, but ... it really helped me to meet someone who was part of the game and played the game.

"Sometimes you almost feel like you're alone in the world."

So far, Pat Dawson's experience with baseball has mirrored Abbott's: Both found ways to overcome a fundamental obstacle.

But there is one important difference between the two - Dawson does more than just pitch. In addition to his duties on the mound, Dawson played outfield and first base for the Palatine Pony League Cubs this summer.

"I guess I consider myself a player more than a pitcher," said Dawson, who will start his freshman year at Palatine High School this fall. "I don't only pitch. I want to be open to everything on the field."

In most ways, Dawson approaches baseball in the same way as Abbott. While pitching, Dawson rests his mitt over the nub of his left arm (he lost most of the limb as the result of a congenital birth defect). If he needs to field a ball, Dawson simply reaches his right arm across his body and slips it into in the glove. …