Alternative Baseball Organization, a rapidly expanding non-profit organization that provides an authentic baseball experience to co-ed players age 15 and up with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities, is looking for players, sponsors, and volunteer coaches and umpires in Lebanon and surrounding counties.
Alternative Baseball, founded in 2016 in suburban Atlanta, was fielding about 20 teams in 12 states by the time the coronavirus pandemic scuttled its Summer 2020 season. But that hasn’t stopped its tireless founder and commissioner, Taylor Duncan, from promoting the organization nationwide.
As a result, and despite not playing last summer, Duncan says the organization has added 50 additional locations to its pre-COVID roster, including Pennsylvania teams in South Philadelphia and Chester County.
Speaking from his home in Dallas, Georgia, Duncan, who has autism, said he saw a need. “I felt like, after years of being left out, not having the same opportunities as everyone else to play traditional sports, I wanted to provide an opportunity to have a real experience.”
By “real experience,” Duncan means as close to traditional baseball as possible, while remaining flexible enough to adjust to the special needs of players who, in addition to autism, may be dealing with other challenges such as Aspberger’s Syndrome, Down Syndrome, attention deficit disorders, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
So, whenever possible, Alternative Baseball plays its games on full size fields, with major league rules, and no physical assistance to players. Duncan says many fans seeing their first A.B.O. game don’t even notice a difference on first glance.
The only across-the-board adjustments are a slightly larger ball, somewhere between a regulation baseball and a softball, and old fashioned wooden bats. Baseballs, Duncan explained, fly off aluminum bats faster, creating a safety concern.
Smaller fields are occasionally used, especially where full-sized ones are not available, and, for new players with particular challenges, pitches may be thrown underhanded, and some batters may use a tee to start out.
“But, it’s always three strikes you’re out, run your own bases, and do your own fielding,” Duncan says.
Duncan explained that startup A.B.O. teams have traditionally progressed from practices to scrimmages to games with nearby teams, and eventually to games against teams farther away.
“It’s a building process to get to the travel stage,” Duncan said. “We had our first practice with six players in March of 2016, in a suburb in Cobb County, Georgia,” Duncan said. Now, the densest clusters of teams are in Georgia and North Carolina, close to A.B.O.’s birthplace.
According to Duncan, A.B.O. baseball is more than just learning a physical skill and it’s more than a game. “It’s all about providing the experience of being able to form friendships, to build team chemistry, to learn how to work together, to play without being judged,” he said. “You’ll need that when you go out to find employment, when you have to adapt to different situations.”
The relaxed pace of baseball, Duncan believes, is a perfect learning atmosphere for many differently abled athletes.
Duncan and A.B.O. are looking for players, volunteer coaches and umps, and sponsors in Lebanon County. A 2018 promotional trip from Georgia to New York, which included stops in Lancaster, York, and Hershey, put the area on Duncan’s expansion map.
Startup costs for local teams are modest, the biggest usually being liability insurance. A.B.O. looks for donations of field time and equipment, funding for promotion and outreach, and actively seeks sponsors. It occasionally charges small fees to players and their families if costs can’t otherwise be covered.
Duncan says it takes six months to a year from initial application to putting players on the field.
Want to learn more about Alternative Baseball?
Duncan say he can also be reached directly at 770-313-1762 or via email at [email protected].
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