The Alternative Baseball Organization, a 501(c)(3) program for teenagers 15 and older and adults with autism and other disabilities that gives participants an authentic baseball experience, is looking to put together a team in California.
The team would include participants from local areas and would tentatively start this spring and summer, pending volunteer interest.
Taylor Duncan, the commissioner and director of Alternative Baseball, said the organization is looking for a volunteer coach/manager — along with other volunteers — and players to start up the program in the area. Duncan said if the organization is able to find a coach/manager, it would be the first Alternative Baseball team in Missouri. As of right now, the organization has approximately 75 teams in 33 states around the country.
Duncan said Alternative Baseball decided to come to California to help those in the area who are looking for services that fit them.
“After a lot of our individuals graduate from high school, in a lot of areas — especially the rural and suburban areas — there is nowhere near enough services available to help them continue their much needed path to independence,” Duncan said. “Not everybody will qualify for the limited offerings that are out there, or decide that they do not fit their direct needs.”
Duncan said that is why Alternative Baseball is on a mission to try to serve people, in as many communities as it possibly can, so that it can ensure that these individuals will continue to have somewhere to go for social and physical skill enrichment after they leave high school.
For parents who do not know a lot about program, Duncan said the program tries to create the traditional team experience for its players and help them learn skills that can be used outside of sports, as well.
“It is all about having the traditional team experience, for everyone to get out there and form the friendships, for everyone to get out there and learn how to work together as a team,” Duncan said. “A lot of these skills that you can learn in sports can be applied in real life off the baseball diamond as well, no matter what your skill level is. We will always teach them from the ground up.”
Duncan said the experience can help participants form friendships for life off the baseball diamond, as well. He said it’s also an experience that helps players establish a sense of independence; there are no buddies on the field, everyone plays independently.
For people who want to volunteer, Duncan said volunteers will need to fill out and complete a background check.
Duncan said to run at the local level, Alternative Baseball needs to find a coach/manager for the team. Duncan said that individual can have baseball experience and experience working with people with autism, but mostly, Duncan said the coach should have the desire to help people become the best version of themselves.
“They have a great work ethic and a great attitude regarding those with disabilities,” Duncan said. “That they, too, can accomplish the same things as everyone else when they are given the opportunity to go out there and try.”
When they are able to get the local team started, Duncan said the goal is to try to find coaches in other areas around the state such as Kansas City, St. Louis, Jefferson City and other areas and generate interest in those areas as the organization tries to expand.
Expansion is on the rise, Duncan said, as the COVID-19 pandemic actually was a boon for Alternative Baseball.
“Right now during the pandemic, we went from 20 teams in 12 states to, now, we are getting close to 80 teams,” Duncan said. “We ended up getting a big expansion push because the media did not have much to push in terms of sports because everything else besides NASCAR and golf had been canceled.”
For those in the community who wish to support Alternative Baseball, Duncan said the organization needs donations and volunteers.
“We definitely need donations to help us on a national level. To be able to continue to providing equipment and providing resources and everything like that,” Duncan said. “…Any help that we can possibly get from the community to help raise the awareness of the importance of inclusion; and not only the big communities around the country where you commonly see it in the news, but in the rural areas, too. We truly appreciate any help we can possibly get in making this happen.”
For more information about volunteering or signing up to play on a team, visit www.alternativebaseball.org.