DALLAS, Ga. — The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down and/or wreaked havoc with most sports organizations.
Except for the Alternative Baseball Organization.
It's flourished, actually.
The ABO was formed in 2016 by Taylor Duncan, 25, of Georgia. He has autism and created the organization with the following mission statement: To provide an encouraging environment to promote personal growth and development for teens and adults (age 15-older) with autism, and other special needs through baseball.
“When the pandemic hit, we couldn't play any games this year,” Duncan said. “But it did give us time to use virtual meetings and contact various media platforms.
“Before the pandemic, we had about 20 teams in a handful of states. We've since added 50 teams that span from Hawaii to Maine.”
Now he's trying to introduce the ABO to Butler County.
“It takes time,” Duncan said. “The first step is finding a head coach or manager willing to take it on. Then it can take six months to a year to form a roster. But the end result — the experience these players realize — is well worth it.
“With the confidence these people gain through playing ball, many seek employment, get behind the wheel of a vehicle for the first time ... do things they thought they'd never be able to do.”
An ABO roster is co-ed and consists of at least 12 players and carries no limit after that. Games are played by major league rules, last seven or nine innings, and do not involve “buddies” on the field with the players.
“We promote independence while forming friendships through playing baseball,” Duncan said.
While growing up, Duncan admitted he wasn't able to participate in competitive sports because of developmental delays along with preconceived ideas from people who think what a person with autism can and cannot accomplish.
His goal now is to raise awareness and acceptance for autism and special needs people globally, through the sport of baseball.
“Through doing interviews with radio, TV and newspapers, I've been able to inform about 90 percent of the country about (the ABO),” Duncan said. “That and I've been doing as many as 14 Zoom meetings a day. The word is spreading.
“We have teams in Columbus (Ohio), Philadelphia, Chester County in Pa., Louisville, Frederick (Md.) ... We're trying to bridge the gap between Butler County and those areas.”
Pitching comes in three forms — fast-pitch overhand, slow-pitch overhand or hitting off a tee — “to get as many people interested in playing as we can,” Duncan added.
“We have a couple of pitchers who can throw 80 miles an hour. The oldest player in the league is 60,” Duncan said.
Anyone interested in forming an ABO team locally may visit www.alternative baseball.org to discover how to do so.