Some people often assume adults with autism and other disabilities don’t have the social and physical skills for equitable success in life on and off the diamond.
However, in 2016, Taylor Duncan, 25, of Georgia, created Alternative Baseball Organization, a 501c3 authentic baseball experience for teens ages 15 plus and adults with autism and other disabilities. Duncan, who is autistic, is also the commissioner/director.
It takes six months to fill a full team due to the lack of catered services available in most areas for teens and adults with disabilities. So in spite of the pandemic, recruitment for 2021 has begun virtually.
They are looking for a volunteer coach/manager, volunteers and players to help start new programs serving those in the Bronx and the surrounding area.
“When I was much younger, I had speech issues, anxiety issues, and more that came with having autism,” Duncan explained. “I wasn’t able to participate in competitive sports due to the developmental delays, in addition to social stigma (preconceived ideas) from those who think what one with autism can and cannot accomplish. With the help of my mom, teachers, mentors and coaches who believed in me, I’ve gotten to where I am today in my life: To live with the goal to inspire, raise awareness, and acceptance for autism and special needs globally through the sport of baseball.”
The program follows Major League rules (wood bats, base stealing, dropped third strike, etc.), and is a typical team experience for others on the autism spectrum and special needs. Alternative Baseball also has clubs in more than 30 states who are also preparing for their late spring start dates.
In 2019, the organization was commemorated as a community hero at an Atlanta Braves game and has been featured on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” and NBC’s “Today Show.”
It is different from other programs in that teams travel to other areas, play on traditional high school size fields and use the same rule-set as the professionals. The organization provides equipment and resources to help the program become successful.
“As many with autism graduate from high school in many areas, services plateau,” Duncan explained. “In a lot of suburban and rural areas, there are no services for those to continue their path toward independence. Many travel to find the limited services which may or may not be available to their specific needs. Realizing a lack of general incentive and opportunities for those on the spectrum, I started this organization to give others on the spectrum/special needs the opportunity to be accepted for who they are and to be encouraged to be the best they can be!”
To sign up or get information, go to www.alternativebaseball.org.