Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alternative Baseball Organization continues to grow.
Founded in 2016, the nonprofit gives youths 15 and older and adults with autism and other disabilities a chance to play baseball as a way to enrich their physical and social skills on and off the field.
“We’re always going to be continuing to expand, for sure,” said Dallas, Georgia, resident Taylor Duncan, the nonprofit’s founder, commissioner and director.
Duncan, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 4, started the organization when he couldn’t play on regular baseball teams because his coaches were more interested in winning than playing a player with special needs, he said.
Before the pandemic hit the nation nearly a year ago, Alternative Baseball had 20 teams in 14 states. Once the outbreak ends or play can resume amid the pandemic, Duncan said, it will have 82 teams in 34 states, with plans to add more. In addition to Georgia, the squads are in Florida and as far away as Hawaii and Maine.
“I can’t believe it’s happening like it has, really,” Duncan said. “Because of all these areas that have pretty much lacked sports coverage, they called upon (me) to tell my story about my whole situation.”
Duncan said he hopes the 2021 season will start in the late spring/early summer, as long as conditions allow amid the pandemic.
In metro Atlanta, Alternative Baseball has teams in Paulding plus Powder Springs, Mount Paran/east Cobb, Newnan, north Fulton and Gwinnett County/Loganville, with the last two being new this year.
Duncan plans to add teams in Carrollton, Douglasville, Conyers/Covington, Macon, Gainesville and elsewhere across Georgia, and is seeking volunteers to act as managers and coaches for teams there. He also has signed agreements with teams in Savannah, Valdosta, Dalton and Anderson, South Carolina.
A grant from Resurgens Orthopedics will supply equipment for the next six teams in Georgia that sign up will to join the league after already providing gear for six other squads.
Also, the league’s Dallas Dynamos, a Paulding County team, is seeking a new manager after its former one, Dennis Szczybor, moved to Orlando.
Duncan said Alternative Baseball helps teach individuals with disabilities life lessons.
“Not only do we play by the authentic league rules, but really it teaches the social skills and learning how to work together in a real team setting,” he said. “It helps us become better individuals to help stand up for others. We go through hot streaks and cold streaks in real life. It helps (us) learn exactly how to deal with certain situations.
“Sports, like life, is unexpected. … It’s a great opportunity to forge friendships with individuals, who have similar situations. We learn and grow together. We’re like a family. It’s a big environment, where everybody across this network is growing in this together. (It’s) powering through the negative stigma that society has for people with disabilities.”
For more information on Alternative Baseball or to learn how to become a manager or coach, visit www.alternativebaseball.org.