By Thomas Marshall
Just five years ago, a man named Taylor Duncan decided he would do his part to help others like himself who are on the autism spectrum. Taylor started a non-profit organization called the Alternative Baseball Organization (ABO) that offers players a chance to fight a stigma that they all face.
The ABO, founded in 2016, is open to teens and adults ages 15 and older and offers the chance for players to take the skills they learn on the field into other areas such as relationships and professional development.
The ABO first gained recognition in 2018 when Craig Melvin, American broadcast journalist, and anchor at NBC News and MSNBC, covered Taylor’s story and the ABO when the league was expanding to states as far as Colorado.
According to a recent article published by Bay News 9, the league is now represented in 12 states and will soon expand to 33. Teams are also being launched in Tampa, Lakeland, Bradenton, and New Port Richey.
While this story highlights the game of baseball, it is more so tailored towards giving those who are on the spectrum a chance to instill confidence in themselves and to provide a platform for others where they can grow not just through the game of baseball but also enhance their social skills through communication and teamwork, something that is worth so much more than numbers on a score sheet.
Taylor, diagnosed with autism at the age of 4, grew up fighting the stigmas surrounding autism and was often denied opportunities that others were so gracefully given. However, Taylor is not one to complain and decided to take matters into his own hands.
Taylor’s motivations stem from the lack of resources available to those on the spectrum and doing their best to make others feel comfortable in whatever they choose to do in life, “We want to break that barrier, and many of us try every single day to power through those pre-existing perceptions,” Taylor said.
Taylor said his favorite part of the organization was seeing the progress that the players make in their social, emotional, and physical development.
As the organization expands to Tampa, they are attempting to recruit players and volunteers as they hope to jumpstart post-COVID baseball games somewhere between the Summer and Fall of 2021. The organization provides the players’ equipment and offers an end-of-the-season match in which teams can play against former professional baseball players.
One of Taylor’s most notable achievements has been giving a TEDEx talk called “It’s time to reframe what it means to be an athlete,” in which he provides insight into the current stigma of what it means to be an athlete in today’s society and how to break through the barriers that so many others face.
“I am here today intending to inspire, to raise awareness, and acceptance for autism and other special needs through America’s pastime of baseball,” Taylor said in his Ted Talk.
For those interested in joining or learning more about the ABO, you can visit alternativebaseball.org and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.