NORTHERN MICHIGAN, (WPBN/WGTU) -- Alternative Baseball is an organization that encourages autistic teens and adults to be the best they can be in life, both on and off the baseball diamond.
And now, they're hoping to expand the program to parts of northern Michigan.
At just 4-years-old, Taylor Duncan from Dallas, Georgia, was diagnosed with autism. He had speech issues, anxiety and other developmental delays that kept him from playing sports competitively
"My mother helped me through a lot of those obstacles but I still faced a lot of social stigma from peers and coaches who thought they had preconceived ideas of what one with autism can and cannot accomplish,” Alternative Baseball Executive Director and CEO Taylor Duncan said.
But those experiences from his childhood didn't slow him down.
"It goes way beyond wins, losses and statistics,” Duncan said. “Honestly I learned a lot about the game when I played that it not only was a baseball game for me but it was an experience. An experience which boosted confidence, taught me how to work together with others on a team."
He wanted others to enjoy the game of baseball as much as he did, without the fear of being judged.
And in 2016, Alternative Baseball was born.
Alternative Baseball started with around seven players in 2017, and since then, it's taken off
"ESPN and the Today show came calling to do segments for their shows,” Duncan said. “That's when we realized what we were doing needed to be replicated on a national scale."
Because they noticed a pattern.
"Once kids my age graduate high school with autism or disability, after the Randy Savage music stops, well guess what, so do the services in their area,” Duncan said.
And the goal? To start a program in both Traverse City and Cadillac.
"We're trying to get as many in the state of Michigan as we possibly can,” Duncan said. “We have one relocating from Philly to Detroit and now we're wanting to start one in surrounding areas. "
They've received a lot of interest from northern Michigan but they still need volunteer coaches and players.
Duncan hopes that when the players walk away from the league.
"I hope they can have boosted confidence and the courage to walk away and go out and achieve whatever they want to achieve whether it be on or off the baseball diamond,” Duncan said. “Absolutely. Everyone deserves the opportunity to contribute to society without the stigma."
They now have 35 different programs in 16 different states.
They've experienced some delays due to COVID-19 but they plan to start things back up in spring 2021