Taylor Duncan was diagnosed with autism at a young age. When he was 13 years old, he was shunned by his Little League coach, a man with an over-competitive spirit and a closed mind. Although Duncan’s hometown of Dallas, Georgia offered baseball programs for children with special needs, he scored too high on the entrance tests to be accepted. It was in that moment that Duncan realized what he needed to do, and in 2016 at age 21, he created the Alternative Baseball Organization (ABO).
Duncan is the league’s commissioner, CEO, and director. His program is open to anyone 15 years of age or older, who has an autism spectrum diagnosis. Unlike programs he faced as a kid, there are no other qualifiers or expectations of the players. Though everyone wants to learn how to play the game, and would love to get a few wins under their belts, the ABO is a lot more than that.
“Instead of a baseball league, I call it a baseball experience,” Duncan explained. “Our players often go for the social experience as well, to be with others like themselves. Being able to learn those social skills, to work together as a team, build those team chemistry skills, how to win with proper sportsmanship and lose with proper sportsmanship as well — these are vital skills needed in the job sector outside of baseball.”
The ABO is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has shown immense growth in a year where all else has seemed to be put on hold. At the start of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, 20 ABO teams had planned to compete. Now, as the year comes to a close, over 70 teams are eager to play in the 2021 season. Likely due to the continued spread through word of mouth, as well as lockdowns forcing people to explore new outlets for themselves and loved ones, Duncan experienced an overwhelming rush of support and interest in his league.
“I was doing as many as 14 Zoom interviews a day in television markets across the country. I couldn’t believe the support. I didn’t think it would ever happen.” Duncan hopes to continue to grow his league, and be the program that offers support for all people on the autism spectrum, no matter their age or level of disability. He knows how essential positive reinforcement is when working with people with autism, especially children, and he takes the duty of being a supportive coach extremely seriously.
“With the encouragement we’ve given our players in the past, they want to go out and find employment. They want to get behind the wheel of a vehicle for the first time. They hadn’t been encouraged much before from the majority of society.” To follow along as the Alternative Baseball Organization continues to expand, and see if there is a league near you, be sure to check out their Facebook page!Whizzco