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Inspiration easy to find at NBLL

Opening Day features speech by former pro Jim Abbott, born without a right hand, and his message hits home.

March 10, 2012|By Matt Szabo

NEWPORT BEACH — Opening Day was a special one for Newport Beach Little League.

It was a special day when the ceremonial first pitch could be thrown by a boy, Harry Dill, who just four months ago discovered he had a brain tumor. It was a special day when that first pitch could be caught by a man, Jim Abbott, who was born without a right hand but went on to have a distinguished professional career.

It was a special day when another boy, Julian Dunn, who less than two years ago was given just a 20% chance of surviving cancer, could make his baseball debut.

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The sun shined brightly Saturday morning at Bonita Canyon Sports Park. So did the smiles.

Abbott, the guest speaker and a Newport Beach resident, was a big part of it. The hurler, who played for the Angels, Yankees, White Sox and Brewers during his 10-year major league career, even played to the crowd.

"You know who was my favorite team?" he asked during his speech.

"Let me show you," he said, taking off his sweater to reveal an Angels jersey underneath.

The cheers were loud then. They were also loud when Dill threw out the first pitch.

"I was worried that I would miss," Dill, 12, said after the ceremony.

Better that than to be worried about a brain tumor. After his surgery in November, Harry's movement was severely limited. He could barely even put on his glove. But the sixth-grader at Andersen Elementary is doing much better now.

"His recovery was remarkable," said his mother, Amanda.

Many around the league know the story of how Dill hit home runs in two different games on a great day in November, just a day before his surgery. On Saturday, he was up to his old tricks, hitting a two-run homer back at Field No. 4 for his Majors Division team, Newport Rib Company.

Harry Dill also helped out as a Majors "buddy" to the league's Challenger Division team, the Tiger Sharks. The Tiger Sharks, in their second year in the league, are for players with physical and/or mental disabilities. It was on that squad that Julian Dunn, 8, made his debut in organized baseball.

This was a proud day for the whole Dunn family. Julian's father Rich, a longtime Daily Pilot sports editor and writer, and older brother Nolan were at the Newport Harbor Baseball Assn. Opening Day on Saturday. But they hurried back to Bonita Canyon just in time for the Tiger Sharks' game. Nolan was Julian's buddy on the base paths, helping him out after he made contact in each of his at-bats.

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