A 25 year old Dallas, Georgia, man who absolutely loves the game of baseball, can come to our city soon and bring his passion for the game along with his newly formed league.
Taylor Duncan has been commissioned to spread the word about her Alternative Baseball Organization, which has garnered much attention from national media, including ESPN, CNN and NBC. He started with five people and himself and now has teams in more than 30 states.
Now he is spreading his wings across the United States in hopes of getting coaches, players and other volunteers to form a team or teams here in Blount County. Currently, the closest teams are in Chattanooga and Atlanta.
“I’m going to contact any newspaper in the United States,” Duncan said in a recent telephone interview. He said he conducts as many as 14 interviews in a single day via Zoom and other platforms.
An inclusive plan
This is not a baseball organization like everyone else. Duncan was diagnosed with autism when he was only 4 years old and was never given the opportunity to play the game. His league is open to those aged 15 and over who have an autism diagnosis, along with those with other disabilities. Male and female players can join.
“I’ve always been a big fan of the game,” Duncan said. “But I was often denied the chance to play traditional baseball growing up because of developmental delays when I was younger, or because of the negative perception I encountered when I was older.”
This commissioner and director of the Alternative Baseball Organization overcame many of his obstacles with his mother, teachers and coaches. He said he wants to be able to give what many of these children and adults missed.
And while ABO has not been able to play any matches since 2019, word continues to circulate about this non-profit organization. Duncan said that while many sports were closed due to the pandemic, sports reporters looked for stories to write. Many found Duncan and his mission to provide a competitive sports atmosphere for those diagnosed with autism or other disabilities.
Growth does not stop in a pandemic
As the pandemic forced the temporary closure of the program, Duncan began to focus on the 2021 season. He said there could be as many as 70 teams when things resume in the spring or summer, depending on how the pandemic and vaccines develop.
Duncan traveled a lot before COVID, but the breaks have been put on for several months. But he goes on to do as many interviews as he can on the internet and on the phone.
“I did 14 Zoom interviews in one day,” he said. “I called with a TV station in Honolulu, Hawaii, one hour and the next I was with a station in Atlanta. It’s almost like traveling in your own house. ”
Duncan grew up about an hour from Atlanta, and has been a fan of the Atlanta Braves for years. He loves cheering on the minor league Chattanooga Lookouts, a Double-A-affiliated Cincinnati Reds. In fact, Duncan’s interest in the sport transcends national boundaries. He follows teams in Japan and also Korea.
His favorite Major League players include Randy Johnson, Ichiro Suzuki, John Smoltz and Ken Griffey Jr.
He was given a tour of Knoxville Smokies Stadium and will return for a game one day.
For the love of the game
All managers, coaches, players and others involved in ABO are volunteers and receive no financial compensation. There is no upper age limit for participants. Teams will have the opportunity to travel. Each community team comes with its own unique name.
The majority of the funding for the programs gets in the way of donations and sponsorship, said this director.
The drive to make this dream a reality stems from Duncan’s own personal experience of being left on the sidelines. He said that when students like him were older in high school, there were not many places to go. Isolation is a big problem, he said.
“Whether you live in a small place, a place like Maryville or in large areas like the Bronx or LA, it’s pretty much a universal question,” Duncan explained. “Once you finish high school, the state no longer needs to offer services. Many of these individuals are tied up because there is nothing out there where they live. “
Duncan has made great strides in getting the word out. He said he is determined to reach as many communities as possible.
“We want to make sure we are in as many areas as possible to give this opportunity to others just like myself,” he said. “We all deserve the opportunity to be encouraged to be the best we can be and to be accepted for who we are.”
More than baseball
ABO is not just about swinging bats and out-of-field hunting. Duncan said he has seen players learn the game, but also skills that take them further in life.
“It’s not just about victory and loss, statistics and points on the board,” said the player / director. “It’s a much bigger picture than that. Our players get to go out and form friendships. They get to go out and build team chemical skills. They get to go out and put their skills to the test. ”
The trust the players gain is then directed at other areas. Duncan said that for some of them, it could mean getting a job or learning to drive. They now know with the right encouragement that they can succeed, Duncan said.
For Duncan, he began college toward a bachelor’s degree in nonprofit business administration at Toccoa Falls College, with a minor in sports management and theology. He completed his first semester with an average of 4.0.
Because they do not require modified fields, ABO participants play in high school or other venues with Major League dimensions. They also follow the same Major League game rules.
Back in September 2019, members of ABO even got the chance to play a team consisting of former Major Leaguers. Duncan made it clear to them that he did not want them to give their players a victory. He wanted as real an experience as possible. In the end, Duncan’s team lost 14-1. The lessons were taken back to other team members.
When Duncan comes to Maryville, it will be his first visit, but he said he is looking forward to meeting members of the community.
“Once everything is signed, we’re celebrating at the nearby Cracker Barrel,” he said.