LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The sport of baseball is America's pastime and for the non-profit, Alternative Baseball, the game is an avenue for those with special needs to bond. Now, they're looking to expand to Louisville.
The organization provides teens and adults with autism and special needs a chance to become part of a baseball league. Not only do its participants play for the love of the game, the organization helps enrich their lives off the diamond, too.
Taylor Duncan, the sport's commissioner, started the program to uplift other adults with autism and special needs through the game of baseball in a judgment-free setting with a focus on the physical and social skills that develop through the game.
"I was diagnosed with autism at the age of four where I had speech issues, sensory issues and anxiety issues," said Duncan. "My mother helped me with a lot of those obstacles growing up but I still face a lot of stigma about what one with autism can and cannot accomplish."
For Duncan and hundreds of others, Alternative Baseball is way more than a game. It's a resource to learn how to push beyond those everyday obstacles, especially since many programs for people with special needs have age caps ending in high school.
"They age out after high school," said Duncan. "Autism doesn't stop at age 18. There always needs to be some kind of resources they can learn from and be a part of to learn those skills not only on the diamond but off the diamond as well."
Alternative Baseball stays true to the spirit of the game and follows traditional Major League Baseball rules.
"We only use wood bats. We maintain the traditional aura of the game. The only adaptation we have is the ball we use which is slightly larger," Duncan said.
Before the organization can launch a league in Louisville, coaches, umpires and volunteers are needed. Because of coronavirus, the league isn't starting back up until 2021, but those interested in signing up can find all of their volunteer options on their website.
It's time well spent and the lessons learned go well beyond the sport.
"The potential and the things that can happen are sky-high, whether it's athletics, employment, dating and relationships or our personal lives, we just want the opportunity to contribute the same way as the rest of society," Duncan said.
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