Alternative Baseball Organization seeks volunteers for expansion into Del Mar, Encinitas

Alternative Baseball Organization players (in green) once played an exhibition against former Major Leaguers.

From a practice field in the small town of Powder Springs, Georgia, a new baseball league for players with autism or other disabilities has expanded throughout the country over the last five years and now seeks volunteers to help it launch in the Del Mar and Encinitas areas.

Taylor Duncan, 25, who lives in Dallas, Georgia, and has autism, started the nonprofit Alternative Baseball Organization in 2016. He said he wanted to give players 15 and over with disabilities an opportunity to play, and to help them develop life skills.

“I knew those with disabilities in general could have the capability to play with the Major League-style rules, and get the opportunity to get out there, have fun and continue working on social and physical skills for life off the baseball diamond,” said Duncan, who serves as the league’s commissioner and director.

When he was young, Duncan struggled with speech and anxiety, among other issues, and had trouble finding a place in mainstream youth sports leagues. He also said he encountered the stigma of having autism. Through the Alternative Baseball Organization, he emphasized the need to “inspire, raise awareness, and acceptance for autism and special needs globally through the sport of baseball.”

“For some, they’ve been able to go out and find employment and hold it down for the first time just because they’re encouraged to go out and accomplish whatever it is they want to get out and accomplish,” Duncan said.

He added that during the pandemic, the league expanded from 20 teams in 12 states to about 70 in a little over 30 states. It was featured in a segment on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” and on “The Today Show.” The organization was also honored by the Atlanta Braves.

“Really we did everything we could during COVID to turn lemons into lemonade and prepare to keep a positive future for the organization and for our players because eventually this is going to end, and we want to be there stronger than ever when it does,” he said.

The organization is looking for volunteer coaches, players, and others to help start the new programs in North County. It already has teams in Seal Beach and in the Bay Area.

“In California in general we have done really well with recruiting,” Duncan said.

The Alternative Baseball Organization follows Major League Baseball rules, including use of wood bats, and games are seven to nine innings each. Eligible players must be at least 15, but there is no age cutoff.

“We don’t exactly have the fancy stadiums or the multimillion dollar contracts, but we give them a priceless experience,” Duncan said.

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