Alternative Baseball Organization seeks volunteers, players from Harlan County

The Alternative Baseball Organization, a 501c3 authentic baseball experience for teens 15 and up and adults with autism and other disabilities, has begun its recruitment for the 2021 season virtually, looking to southeastern Kentucky for volunteers and players.

Taylor Duncan, a 25-year-old with autism from Dallas, Georgia, is the commissioner and director of ABO, which he says helps those with disabilities like autism to “gain social and physical skills for success in life on and off the diamond.”

“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,” he said. “So in spite of the pandemic, recruitment for 2021 has begun virtually.”

Duncan said the ABO is looking for a volunteer coach/manager, volunteers and players to help start a new program serving those in Harlan County and the surrounding area, in addition to other Mid-South programs, tentatively set to start in late spring-summer 2021.

“We are different from other programs in that teams travel to other areas, play on traditional high school size fields and play using the same rule-set as the pros on television,” he said. “The organization provides equipment and resources to help such a program become successful.”

Duncan said when he was younger, he had speech issues, anxiety issues and more that came with having autism, prohibiting him from being able to participate in competitive sports due to developmental delays and social stigma 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,” he said.

As many with autism graduate from high school, Duncan said their services often plateau.

“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,” Duncan said. “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.”

Duncan added it is important to him to continue trying to provide hope for individuals throughout the pandemic, noting we can and will get through it together and celebrate.

“Let’s keep praying together,” he said.

Duncan said individuals from all walks of life deserve the opportunity to be accepted for who they are, encouraged to be the best they can be and instilled confidence to achieve dreams in life on and off the baseball diamond.

“There are simply not enough services available throughout the country to fit those of all needs and sides of the spectrum. There needs to be more providers, particularly in rural areas of those who commonly have to travel to bigger areas an hour or so away. That’s a given sign there’s nowhere even near enough,” he said.

Duncan’s program follows Major League rules involving wooden bats, base stealing, dropped third strike and more, which “is a true typical team experience for others on the autism spectrum and special needs to help develop social skills for later in life.”

Alternative Baseball also has clubs in over 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 “Weekday TODAY Show.”

“Players can be of all experience levels. We take them from where they start out at (whether they require to be pitched to slow overhand or hit off the tee), and help develop their physical and social skills,” he said. “I look forward to one day having the opportunity to serve your community for hopefully many years to come.”

To learn more about the ABO, click here.