RINCON — Taylor Duncan’s idea can only be categorized as a home run.
Duncan, 25, is the commissioner of the Alternative Baseball Organization (ABO). The coed league, a 501(c)(3) organization, is designed to help players 15 and older with autism or other disabilities gain social and physical skills for success on and off the diamond.
The ABO has entries in 12 states.
“We have skyrocketed from 20 teams to around 70 (recently) because we have gotten so much news coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Duncan said.
Duncan is hopeful that Effingham County will join the ABO fold soon. Savannah already has.
“The biggest thing is we are trying to connect with individuals around the greater (Savannah) area so that we could have some opportunities for them to be able to play against other teams close by,” Duncan said.
ABO games, which typically last 7-9 innings, are played according to professional baseball rules.
“We want to be able to serve as many people as we possibly can and really get that authentic experience,” Duncan said.
Bats, balls, helmets and catcher’s gear for an Effingham County team have been funded by a grant from Atlanta-based Resurgens Orthopaedics.
“That’s for whoever wants to step up and manage the team,” Duncan said.
The commissioner said there are no special qualifications needed for coaching autistic players.
“Baseball experience is definitely a plus,” he said, “and it’s all about, really, the passion to encourage others to be the best they can possibly be and to accept them for who they are, and instill confidence needed for them to fulfill dreams in life outside the baseball diamond as well.”
Duncan has no doubt that participation in baseball shaped him as he dealt with autism and the social stigma that comes with it. He was diagnosed with the disorder when he was four years old.
Because of Duncan’s speech, sensory and anxiety issues, coaches often refused to give him playing time. They had preconceived notions about what autistic people can or can’t do.
Duncan finally got to play a full season when he was 12 but was cut from the squad by a new coach the following year. He didn’t give up, however.
He continued to work on his baseball skills before eventually running out of options to play. That prompted him to form his own team, which he led to the championship game in the league’s 2012 postseason.
Later, after receiving instruction from some of the best players in baseball and softball, Duncan decided to form the ABO. His efforts have been recognized by the Georgia House of Representatives, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, Atlanta Braves and Toastmasters International.
To sign up to play or coach in the ABO, visit https://www.alternativebaseball.org/.