Taylor Duncan loves everything about baseball. He joined baseball teams growing up in his home state of Georgia but he struggled to actually play the game.
“Coaches wouldn't let me participate in competitive sports due to those developmental delays and preconceived perceptions of what somebody with autism or a little bit of a difficulty can or cannot do,” he said.
Duncan was diagnosed with autism at the age of four. He refuses to let the condition limit him, even if others try to. In 2016, he started a baseball league for people with autism and other special needs called the Alternative Baseball Organization, or ABO.
“It’s my dream. I feel like I've been called to do this, to help others on the spectrum succeed,” he said.
The rules for ABO are the same as the Major League. The only difference is the ball they use is larger and softer. If players have 70 percent attendance or better, they are allowed to play in the All-Star game. Duncan brings in current and former major and minor league players to compete with the ABO players.
“It’s unlike any other thing that I've probably ever experienced in the sport before, seeing one of our players actually strike out a former Anaheim Angels prospect in our very first year of doing the All-Star game.”
ABO has several teams in Georgia and is expanding to other states like New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland. Duncan recruited Ethan Wallace to start the ABO Aberdeen team. Wallace is a manager for the NEQ Arsenal and is a seasonal worker with Cal Ripken Jr.’s baseball program.
“It’s just playing America's pastime the way it should be played and everyone is out here having fun,” said Wallace.
“Our league is solely based for this purpose so that everyone feels included and everybody has the opportunity to play.”
If anyone knows how important it is to feel included, it’s Duncan. His mission is to make sure no one has to sit on the sidelines.
“The most important thing, whether it's baseball or whether its any other passion, I would tell somebody to put in 100 percent effort,” said Duncan.
“Don’t let the people who tell you no get you down because they may not be the right people to help you anyway."
ABO is still looking for players and volunteers to start the Aberdeen team. They hope to start in the fall or next spring. To sign up, go to the Join page. You can also go to ABO Aberdeen on Facebook to contact Wallace and receive more information.