Baseball can be America’s pastime, but it’s harder for some players to get on the field than others.
Taylor Duncan is working to change that.
As a commissioner for the Alternative Baseball Organization, Duncan aims to make the sport as accessible as possible for disabled players, including those in the greater Kalispell area.
Duncan, who was diagnosed with autism at a young age, started the non-profit baseball league in his home state of Georgia in 2016. The alternative baseball organization has since expanded to include 80 teams across the country, and Duncan hopes to include the first Montana team. made for Kalispell later this year.
“We are ready to bring alternative baseball up in this area,” said Duncan, who first visited the area on a trip to Eureka many years ago.
The organization meets players at their level, without compromising on any of the aspects that make the game such a popular sport.
Players aged 15 and over are trained to compete using Major League Baseball rules and regulations.
“It’s just like on TV, except we do not have fancy stadiums or multi-million dollar contracts,” Duncan said.
But what the alternative league lacks in glamor, it makes up for in social impact.
PARTICIPANTS WITH Disabilities learn skills they can use on and off the diamond, while participating in an enriching team activity – a rare experience for many older members of the disabled.
“It’s really about offering an experience where everyone can grow physically and socially,” Duncan said.
His own experience with autism helped Duncan cope with the tendency for disabled programs to drop out at the end of high school – and the way people underestimate what a person with a disability can achieve at any age.
“We want to continue the experiences they may have left behind in high school or even earlier,” he said. “We never have the opportunities to play growing up like everyone else. This is an opportunity… to make up for it. ”
To achieve this in Kalispell, the alternative baseball organization needs some manpower.
The new local team is currently looking for players, volunteers, a manager and a team name.
Duncan said the newest team with teams will start playing this fall. It takes about six months to fill a team, he said.
One of the most crucial roles to fill, in his experience, is the leadership position. Duncan said finding a leader with “autism and baseball experience is nice, but some of the best have neither.”
A good fit for the job is a person who is patient, willing to learn and passionate about the game – much like the league’s founder.
As for the players, Duncan said that all 15 and older with disabilities can find a place on the team. There is no age limit and no experience required. Managers and volunteers will work with each player during training sessions at the beginning of the season to make them competitive.
“We’re not just throwing people out there,” Duncan said. “We actually want to prepare people and practice the different scenarios, so when they need to deal with spontaneous scenarios, disappointment …[they will] transfer it to real life too. ”
For more information, or to contact the Alternative Baseball Organization, go to www.alternativebaseball.org.
Reporter Bret Anne Serbin can be reached at 406-758-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.