A new baseball league for adults with autism and other disabilities is headed for the Dawson County area.
According to representatives of the Alternative Baseball Organization (ABO), an authentic baseball experience for adults with disabilities, ABO is looking for players and volunteer coaches to establish a league in the Dawson and Forsyth County areas for the Spring 2021 season.
In an interview with the Dawson County News, ABO Commissioner and Director Taylor Duncan said that they have acquired a grant from Resurgens Orthopedics in Cumming to cover the costs of all gear for the league, but they are still looking for a volunteer head coach of the team.
Duncan said the head coach would be responsible for finding a field for the league to play their home games at. 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, Georgia 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 follows the same rules that Major League Baseball play by, other than playing only seven innings and allowing every member of the team to bat in the lineup. But uses wood bats, three strikes are an out and stolen bases are allowed. Players and coaches will get their own team uniform and will play against different teams in leagues all over the state. Out of state games could be organized too.
“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, ABO needs a minimum of 12 players in the area and 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org