WANTED: Players, volunteers for alternative baseball
As he got older, Taylor Duncan noticed there were fewer opportunities for people, like himself, who have autism or other disabilities and for some people, mostly those who reside in suburban and rural areas, there are no services to continue their path toward independence.
“We need to do better at having enough services to ensure that people with disabilities have the encouragement to be successful in society. Some need more help beyond high school,” he said.
Now, through alternative baseball, he’s working to combat that problem.
Duncan, the commissioner/executive director of Alternative Baseball Organization, said alternative baseball provides the ultimate baseball experience for people with autism and other disabilities.
“It’s about providing a service for others, like myself, to give them an opportunity to compete and continue to learn,” he said.
There are currently 82 alternative baseball teams in 33 states, and now he’s looking for a volunteer coach/manager, players and volunteers to start another team to serve those in Steele County and the surrounding area.
He said coaches with baseball experience and/or experience with people who have autism or other disabilities is a huge plus.
“As soon as we find a manager and the governor lifts his orders, we can start a team in Steele County,” he said. “Players and volunteers who sign up in the meantime will join the Rochester team.”
In order to participate, Duncan said players must be 15 years old or older and they must be able to play independently in the field.
By participating in alternative baseball, he says teens and adults with disabilities will develop their social skills, teamwork, team chemistry skills, personal and team leadership skills and learn how to handle the good days and the bad days.
He noted that all those skills are needed to be successful in life beyond the baseball diamond.
“They’ve got to learn how to work together in order to be successful in the job sector,” Duncan said. “We’re teachable just like everybody else is, we just want the same opportunities to be successful.”
He mentioned that their alternative baseball team also helps instill confidence in players, builds their confidence, provides them a community of people with similar disabilities and gives them a place to belong.
“This organization gives others on the spectrum/special needs the opportunity to be accepted for who they are and to be encouraged to be the best they can be,” he said.
In addition to encouraging and helping people with autism and other disabilities, Duncan said another reason he’s starting up more teams throughout the United States is so people on the autism spectrum or those who have special needs don’t have to travel far in order to continue to develop their social and physical skills and move toward independence.
“There needs to be things in towns big and small. They need to have something in their own area to participate in,” he said.
He also wants alternative baseball to continue expanding so they can help even more teenagers and adults.
“We’ve barely scratched the surface,” Duncan said. “Eventually, we want to serve the entire country.”
Anyone interested in playing alternative baseball or being a coach or volunteer should visit www.alternativebaseball.org and click on the play or volunteer tab and fill out the form.
He said it typically takes six months to fill a full team so he’s hoping the Steele County team can start in mid-summer, but COVID-19 will largely dictate that.
Photo: Alternative baseball gives more people with autism and other special needs the opportunity to grow their social and physical skills for success in life on and off the baseball diamond.