Practice makes perfect for Abbadessa

No way, she thought. Her husband, Vince Abbadessa, really could not be thinking about throwing a baseball high into the air as 3-year-old Jude awaited making the catch.

But throw it Vince did as Alicia looked on in shock. Jude loved emulating his older brother, Christian, and playing baseball was the best way to do it. He received an early baseball introduction and no high pop could scare him. Even if the glove covered his entire face.

Jude positioned himself, watched the ball take its downward flight, covered his face with the glove and felt the ball securely land in there. He was hooked from that point on.

Now, Alicia sees that same determined look every time Jude plays.

“Jude stood looking up in the air, glove in hand ready to catch that ball. It’s the same look I see today when he is out on the field,” Alicia said. “It looks as if he is saying ‘give me that ball and let’s play.'”

What a game Abbadessa plays. That early introduction ignited a passion and Jude has become quite a baseball player. A worldwide audience learned that Wednesday night as he went 5 for 5 – the first five-hit Series game since 1992 – with a home run and six RBIs while also earning the win in relief as Mid-Atlantic Region titlist Endwell, New York, defeated Great Lakes champion Bowling Green, Kentucky, 13-10 and earned a spot in Saturday’s U.S. championship.

Abbadessa helped New York erase an early three-run deficit, played errorless defense and came up huge every time he batted. Take Abbadessa away and New York would have lost its first game this summer. He is just one of 11 valuable Maine-Endwell Little League all-stars, but for a few hours Wednesday he was the best Little Leaguer on the planet.

“Being at the Little League World Series is one of the best things to happen in my life,” Abbadessa said. “I’m just trying to help my team and out and this was one of the best performances I ever had.”

It was one of the best overall performances in recent Series history. Abbadessa made something good happen whenever he had the ball or bat in his hand and he was the one who finally cooled a powerful Kentucky offense after entering to pitch in the fourth inning of an 8-8 game. Abbadessa allowed only two hits in 2 2/3 innings, struck out two and helped New York rally for a thrilling win in a back-and-forth contest.

He might not pitch as much as aces Michael Mancini or Ryan Harlost, but Abbadessa’s arm is a big reason New York enters Saturday’s national championship 22-0.

“We’re very comfortable with our pitchers,” New York manager Scott Rush said. “They have pitched in big games before and they have done the jobs when we ask them to.”

Still, as valuable as Abbadessa was pitching against Kentucky, he stole the show with his hitting. He hit a go-ahead, two-run home run in the second inning and that started a stretch of four straight at-bats where he drove in at least one run. Abbadessa, only 100 pounds, also had two doubles, scored three runs and was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle by the third inning.

“I just wanted to go up there wanting to get the bat on the ball,” Abbadessa said. “I’m small, but I just try to swing the bat and hit the ball hard.”

Abbadessa nearly had the cycle in the fourth inning, but a quick relay throw held him to a go-ahead, two-run double. An inning later, Abbadessa flashed his speed and hit an infield RBI single, capping his huge night.

It is no accident that Abbadessa has become the player he is. It is the product of natural talent combined with a ferocious work ethic. A year after catching that fly ball as a 3-year-old, Abbadessa asked his parents to let him take lessons at the Raleigh Baseball Institute, run by teammate Brody Raleigh’s father, Matt.

This was all Abbadessa’s decision and he never regretted it. The drills and the practice, things other kids might find boring, Abbadessa embraced. On the field, he felt at home.

Away from the field, Abbadessa still is thinking baseball. The pitches that tied up Kentucky’s hitters are ones that Abbadessa has researched, worked on and then executed well when the bright lights have gone on. The way he hits and fields is the result of repetition and determination.

Youngsters who doubt the value of hard work can watch Abbadessa play and realize how wrong they are.

“Jude truly loves the game. He will Google different pitches and sit on the couch, baseball in hand and work on different grips and pitches. He will toss the ball into our couch as he tries to figure out a new pitch and as soon as his dad comes home from work, or his grandfather comes over, they head out back and try those different pitches,” Alicia said. “His grandfather also throws him hard grounders in our living room for him to practice catching, getting his body in front of the ball. Jude, throughout the year, goes down to RBI (a baseball facility) a few times a week and works on his pitching, hitting and defense.”

The last few years, especially this season, are the payoff for paying that price. Abbadessa has been a part of three straight state champions and now is a win away from playing for a national championship.

He has embraced the moment too. Abbadessa is hitting .636 in three Series games and has a U.S.-high eight RBIs as well as a pitching win and no errors.

Abbadessa has written an impressive baseball story. Wednesday he wrote his masterpiece.

“I felt good in the cages and my arm felt good,” Abbadessa said. I felt good going in but I didn’t think I would do what I did.”

“(Wednesday) I saw Jude play what I would say was his best game ever. Everything just seemed to come together for him and clicked,” Alicia said. “His years of hard work, commitment, countless hours of practice and his love of the game and his teammates and all his coaches was evident.”

And it has been that way since he was 3.