Powering through Perceptions: Alternative Baseball Organization looks to start River Parishes program
LAPLACE — Growing up, Taylor Duncan wasn’t always able to participate in competitive sports due to developmental delays and the social stigma associated with having autism. With help from family, mentors and coaches who believed in him, Duncan showed the world what it means to power through perceptions.
The 25-year-old from Dallas, Georgia is the commissioner/director of the Alternative Baseball Organization, a 501c3 nonprofit that offers an authentic baseball experience for teens and adults with autism and other disabilities. Open to ages 15 and up, Alternative Baseball helps participants gain social and physical skills while instilling confidence that their disability does not limit their future.
Alternative Baseball has expanded to Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and South Carolina. Virtual recruitment has started for 2021, and the search is on for a coach/manager to lead a new program in the River Parishes.
It takes approximately six months to fill a team, and the goal is to get practices started by mid-summer, pending state and regional COVID-19 restrictions.
Duncan said an ideal coach/manager would have baseball experience and experience working with people who have disabilities.
“Overall it’s about the patience and willingness to help our players succeed. Coaches/ managers go by our mantra of accepting everybody for who they are, encouraging them to be the best they can be and instilling confidence,” Duncan said.
According to Duncan, baseball is the perfect avenue to raise awareness and acceptance for individuals with autism and special needs.
“It’s the perfect pace, and really we’re able to tailor it to where everyone’s skill level is accounted for, but the overall structure of the game is still fair for everyone to where it resembles a Houston Astros game without the million dollar stadium,” he said.
Alternative Baseball Organization is unique because it follows traditional Major League rules, including the use of wood bats, base stealing and dropped third strike. The exception to the rule is that Alternative Baseball utilizes larger, softer baseballs than regulation size.
Games take place on traditional high school size fields, and the organization provides equipment and resources to make local programs successful. While training can be tailored to an individual’s skill level, players must be able to compete without having buddies on the field.
“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,” Duncan said. “If they swing and miss three times in a row, the player is still out. There is no buddy assist on the field since everyone plays independently.”
Alternative Baseball Organization started in January 2016 with about six players. Since then, the organization has been featured on ESPN’s BASEBALL TONIGHT and NBC’s Weekday TODAY Show.
“It went from a local awareness campaign to fulfilling a national need,” Duncan said. “I learned that in small areas like where I live and even large metro areas, there are no more services for people with disabilities after you graduate from high school. The disability spectrum is so wide. There needs to be multiple services fulfilling all the needs of the disability spectrum.”
Alternative Baseball allows players to work on sportsmanship, building character and thinking strategically. It also promotes teamwork skills that can transfer to meaningful employment.
“They might have anxiety about starting something new out of their typical routine, but this becomes part of their lives,” Duncan said. “They want to go out and find employment, get behind the wheel of a car for the first time – things they were previously told they were not capable of doing, all because they finally had someone other than their parents tell them they can.”
Visit www.alternativebaseball.org/coach to find out how to become a coach/manager and get the River Parishes program started.