The Alternative Baseball Organization (ABO), an authentic baseball experience for adults with autism and other disabilities, is establishing a league in the Forsyth County and Dawson County area slated to begin this spring.
The league acquired a grant from Resurgens Orthopedics, which has an office in Cumming, to cover costs of all gear, but is still looking for a volunteer head coach of the team.
According to Taylor Duncan, the commissioner and director of ABO, the head coach would be responsible for finding a field where the league could play their home games. Other than that, their responsibilities mirror a head coach of any other baseball league. The ABO is completely independent, so there are no on-field volunteers.
Duncan, who also has autism, helped start the league in January 2016 in Powder Springs with about six players. Now there are 70 teams around the country. Before the pandemic, there were only 20 teams, but Duncan said national coverage by NBC’s “The Today Show” and ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” made their popularity boom during the pandemic.
“They tried to pitch us a curveball and we hit a grand slam into the grandstand,” Duncan said.
ABO plays by the same rules as Major League Baseball, other than playing only seven innings and allowing every member of the team to bat in the batting lineup. However, the league uses wood bats, three strikes are an out, and stolen bases are allowed.
Players and coaches get their own team uniform and play against different teams in leagues all over the state and could set up games outside of the state as well.
“There are so many people, like myself, who were denied this kind of opportunity while growing up,” Duncan said. “They come to gain social and physical skills for success in life on and off the diamond. We strive to accept everyone for who they are, not who they aren’t.”
For the team to form, a minimum of 12 players have to sign up in the area with at least one volunteer coach. Anyone with a disability can play, but Duncan said that every player is on the field independently and should know that prior to signing up in case there are any issues with that. The minimum age is 15, and players as old as 64 played last season. Practices are once a week for an hour and a half.
Players can sign up at any time on ABO’s website, alternativebaseball.org, or email email@example.com.