Raising autism awareness through baseball

Alternative Baseball gives teens and adults with autism the chance to play baseball on high school fields. The organization is currently looking for coaches, players and volunteers to start a program in Southern Maryland.

During his youthful days growing up in Georgia, Taylor Duncan was among the increasing number of kids diagnosed with autism and he had little opportunities to play competitive sports. Nevertheless, he sought to change the landscape for future prospective athletes with autism.

Duncan, 25, is currently the commissioner/director of the Alternative Baseball Organization, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides an authentic baseball experience for teens (15-and-up) and adults with autism and other disabilities in order to gain physical and social skills for success in life and an off the baseball field. Alternative Baseball now has teams in over 30 states nationwide and is seeking coachers and players to form a team in Southern Maryland for 2021.

“When I was much younger, I had speech issues, anxiety issues and more that came with having autism,” Duncan said. “I wasn’t able to participate in competitive sports due to the development delays, in addition to social stigma and preconceived ideas from those who think that one with autism can and cannot accomplish. With the help of my mom, teachers, mentors and coaches who believed in me, I’ve gotten to where I am today in my life.”

Alternative Baseball mirrors Major League Baseball rules, with players using wooden bats and high school regulation fields and is designed to offer a typical team experience for players and coaches. Already featured on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight segment and once on NBC’s TODAY show, Duncan is looking to expand the organization by starting a new program throughout Southern Maryland and the surrounding area.

“Players can be of all experience levels,” Duncan said. “We take them from where they start, overhand pitch, underhand pitch or off the tee and help them develop physical and social skills. In a lot of suburban and rural areas, there are no services for children or teens with autism which may not be available to their specific needs. I started this organization to give those with special needs the opportunity to be accepted for who they are and to be encouraged to be the best they can be.”

Duncan noted that Alternative Baseball is primarily looking for volunteer coaches, managers and other volunteers and players to help the group start a new program serving those with autism in Southern Maryland and the surrounding area. Ideally, Duncan would like to see the team formed by late spring or early summer and allow kids to play baseball games on regulation high school fields.

Alternative Baseball provides the equipment and resources to local programs to help them develop and remain successful.

Duncan has not been to Maryland in several years, but he was quick to recall gaining an immediate appreciation for one of the Free State’s finest cuisines — crab cakes and Old Bay seasoning. Duncan has received interest from players and coaches in western Maryland and on the Eastern shore, but now he is hoping to develop a foothold in Southern Maryland.

“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to Maryland, but I can’t wait to get back up there,” Duncan said. “I know there is a likely good pool of potential players and coaches in Southern Maryland who could help us form a team. We’re looking for some coaches and volunteers to step forward and put a team together.”

Twitter: @TedSoMdNews

Twitter: @TedSoMdNews