From a young age, Dallas, Georgia native Taylor Duncan faced plenty of challenges.
“I was diagnosed with autism at the ae of 4 where I had speech issues, sensory issues and anxiety issues growing up but my mother(Cindy) helped me through a lot of those,” said Duncan.
But even as he got older, the challenges continued, especially when it came to sports.
“I had a lot of coaches who had preconceived ideas about what someone with autism can and cannot accomplish,” said Duncan.
So Taylor did something about it.
“It isn’t just a baseball league, I call it a baseball experience,” said Duncan.
In 2016, a 20-year old Duncan created the Alternative Baseball Organization, a resource for those 15 and older with autism and other disabilities to have the opportunity to grow physically and socially through the sport of baseball. The ABO is played by MLB rules, with a slightly softer ball.
“It’s the perfect chance for our players to continue evenly on a team. Everyone plays their position in the field, nine players in the field but we have unlimited numbers of batters in the lineup,” said Duncan.
At the beginning, there were just 7 players in the ABO and the league mostly focused on practices then. Four years later, there are roughly 30 programs in 14 different states and he wants Syracuse to be the next location. He believes the league allows everyone to play the sport without any outside judgement.
“Every person deserves to be encouraged to be the best they can be, accepted for who they are and instilled confidence need to fulfill dreams in life on and off the baseball diamond,” said Duncan. “That’s why we are here to put this in as many communities as we possibly can.”
The first step is to have a volunteer coach/manager to run the organization. From there, it would be based on interest to how big the league could grow. Duncan and the ABO does provide equipment when necessary and can help with finidng a field. Anyone who wanted to volunteer or play would sign up through the ABO website under the “Play”, “Coach” or “Volunteer” tabs. Every member of the Alternative Baseball is important.
“It’s about the support from the players, the volunteers, the coach managers that we have in all of our areas because without them we wouldn’t have an organization,” said Duncan.
No amount of support was bigger than the amount he got from his mom Cindy from early on.
“Instead of saying no I can’t, she said if you think you can. And she always gave me the opportunity to show what I can do. She gave me the opportunity to put something together and she was a big supportive factor in the creation of alternative baseball and she’s always been the biggest contributor throughout my entire life. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her,” said Duncan.
In the end Taylor wants the ABO in as many places as possible to help “power through perceptions”.
“We’re capable of so much more when we’re given the support to succeed in society. When we work together, when we’re more inclusive, we when are provided more inclusive opportunities both on and off the baseball diamond,” said Duncan.