Taylor Duncan’s autism wasn’t the thing that kept him from being able to play competitive sports as a child, he said Wednesday afternoon. Other people’s beliefs about his autism — those were the real obstacles.
Duncan, now 24, turned his memories of marginalization into a passion project: The Alternative Baseball Organization, a nonprofit that gives teenagers and young adults with special needs the chance to play competitively in an accommodating, supportive environment.
“No one deserves to be denied the opportunity to play traditional baseball on the basis of their disability or on the basis of the perception of what one with a disability can and cannot accomplish,” Duncan said.
The game is played according to Major League rules, but with tools that are more friendly to people with sensory sensitivities.
He’s already helped establish Alternative Baseball clubs in Georgia, Texas, New Jersey, South Carolina, Arizona and Colorado. He hopes 2021 will be the year he can expand to Cincinnati.
But he can’t do it, he said, without Cincinnatians ready to play, coach and volunteer as umpires. The Alternative Baseball Organization will provide equipment and find a field to play on. Cincinnati needs to provide the people who make up and support the team.
Anyone over the age of 15 who has autism or other disabilities, whether mental or physical, is eligible to play. Duncan said that working as a team can help players build self-esteem and develop their communication skills, which can be especially hard for people with autism.
“When we’re given the opportunity to show what we can do, when we’re given the opportunity to be the best we can be, when we’re encouraged as much as possible, the sky is the limit as to what can be accomplished,” he said.
Anyone interested in playing or volunteering with Alternative Baseball can find more information here.