Nationwide baseball organization for those with autism wants to come to eastern Idaho
Published at | Updated at
IDAHO FALLS — What began as a way to help people with autism participate in afterschool programs or community organizations has turned into a nationwide sports program in 33 states.
Now they want to come to eastern Idaho, and they need locals to help them do it.
The Alternative Baseball Organization was launched five years ago, but for CEO Taylor Duncan, it’s purpose has been a part of his life since he was a child.
Duncan was diagnosed with autism when he was 4-years-old. During his childhood and teenage education, schools offered assistance programs to help him with speech, sensory, and anxiety issues. However, everything seemed to change after graduation.
For many, state services working with those with special needs stop after high school ends or when the individuals turn 18 years old.
“They don’t have the services to be able to continue their path toward independence,” Duncan told EastIdahoNews.com. “A disability does not magically vanish after 18.”
So he came up with a plan. Duncan enjoyed playing baseball, but felt like the social stigma of autism, among other reasons, kept him from playing the traditional sports on a team as a kid.
“All of that was due to the negative perceptions from others,” he said. “But with my positive experiences that I’ve had through (playing baseball), I decided it was time to pass off this experience to others.”
That was the start of the Alternative Baseball Organization. They provide an elevated baseball experience for teens and adults ages 15-years-old or older who have autism or other disabilities. There is no maximum age to join the team.
“Everyone’s accepted for who they are and are encouraged to be the best they can be and instill confidence needed to fulfill dreams in life, on and off the baseball diamond,” Duncan said.
Within the last five years, the Alternative Baseball Organization has touched 33 states, with 80 teams, including one in Boise. Right now, they are looking to come to the eastern Idaho area in order to give Boise a team to compete with.
It all starts with a coach/manager for the team. Duncan has seen them come in all shapes and sizes.
“I’ve seen that many of the best coaches often do have experience with baseball and those with disabilities. (But) many of the best ones often do not,” he said. “They just show the patience and the willingness to learn as much as they can about how to coach to the best of their ability.”
It’s all about being a role model in Duncan’s eyes. He has seen the effect that confidence from leaders in the Alternative Baseball Organization can give to those with disabilities.
“When we are out there to be encouraged, it’s almost limitless,” he said. “That confidence will often translate off the baseball diamond as well because really it’s all about giving them those opportunities. Those who take that confidence will often want to find employment.”
Duncan has seen players with autism find the confidence to get work, learn to drive, and help their friends and family after being part of the organization.
Along with coaches/managers, the Alternative Baseball Organization is looking for other volunteers, umpires, and of course, at least 12 players to form the eastern Idaho team.
When teams are formed, the organization likes to get the community involved. They typically have community input on team name and branding. They have been known to have events where the baseball team will play a game against those in local area government, the police, firefighters, etc. to show support and encouragement.
Typically, the organization have practices or games once a week after the team is officially formed.
If you are interested in coaching, volunteering, or playing on the team, or know someone who may be, visit the Alternative Baseball Organization’s website where you will find buttons to sign up to either coach or play. If you have trouble filling out the form yourself, use the ‘Contact Us’ tab to ask for help or call (770) 313-1762, and Duncan will help sign you up.
“We’re given the opportunity here to just get out there and succeed and get out there and have fun,” Duncan stated. “That’s why I call it a baseball experience.”