Alternative Baseball sets sights on building team in La Crosse

Teaches baseball, self-confidence to those with autism, other special needs

The CDC reports 1 in 54 children are identified with autism spectrum disorder, and those children have less opportunities to play organized sports. One man from Georgia wanted to do something about that.

Taylor Duncan was diagnosed with autism at age four, and though he had a big passion for sports, he ran into cultural obstacles.

“I didn’t have many opportunities, and the opportunities I did have I had to work very hard for them, “Duncan said. “Really, I faced a lot of social stigma from peers and negative perceptions from peers and coaches who thought they knew what one with autism can and cannot accomplish.”

Duncan would travel to spring training camps across the southeastern US and met people with the same passion for the game of baseball that he did, and after coming back from one camp, he asked his mom a question.

“Why isn’t this type of opportunity available for others just like myself, and why do people have to go hours and hours away to try and find services after age 18 that they don’t even know if it will fit their needs, let alone even qualify for them?”

So he organized Alternative Baseball in January 2016. He started with seven total players, and word of mouth eventually got it to 12. But it was after ESPN and the Today Show ran stories on his efforts when communities all over the nation reached out to him about starting programs there.

Duncan’s Alternative Baseball caters to people age 15 and up who have autism or other special needs and gives them that chance to learn America’s pastime. Duncan says the program is more than just providing ball games.

“We are looking to change the way society thinks about those with disability,” Duncan said. “We invite those that have experience with disabilities and those who don’t to come out and catch Alternative Baseball and see what we’re all about, so that we can really make this a teaching lesson for everybody. They could come out and see what we can do, not what we can’t. We constantly push the envelope on our players to where they realize that they’re much more capable than they even thought.”

Alternative Baseball has teams in over 30 cities, including Wausau and Beloit. Now Duncan is looking at getting a team going in La Crosse.

“We need two coach managers ideally, but we need to find the players, we need to find the volunteers to help the coach managers,” Duncan said. “It usually takes six months to a full year to get a new program started anyway, so why not start today?”

Anyone in La Crosse interested in helping set up a local team can head to the organization’s website, alternativebaseball.org.

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