They say that extraordinary people accomplish extraordinary things. Taylor Duncan personifies that statement. He is the founder of the Alternative Baseball Organization (ABO) and its annual All-Star Game. We had the opportunity to interview Duncan and learn about the ABO and it’s mission.
The game of baseball is America’s Pastime and has fans and players from all walks of life. For Duncan, the inspiration was autism and giving others that faced similar disadvantages the opportunity to play the game.
“As a person with autism, I understand it is important to provide an encouraging, accepting environment for all participants in the program. It is also important to do everything we can to help develop baseball for the disadvantaged communities and set them up for success. I learned my skills in baseball and slowpitch softball from some of the very best. I wanted to pass my experiences (of trial, error, rewards, and surprises) onwards to a community that I know is hungry for a path to success in America’s Pastime. In order for this program to be effective, we have to continuously put our players against the very best, so they can grow and gain more experience.”
Organizing an All-Star game would be a huge undertaking for anyone, nonetheless a 21-year old. He was able to secure former professional players Brian Barton, formerly of the Atlanta Braves and former New York Yankees prospect Tim Battle, among others. It didn’t end there, renowned tenor Timothy Miller sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” and he even had the Atlanta International Umpires volunteer their services.
“Mt. Paran North Church of God’s Sports Pastor was very nice and accepting of the idea of the first ABO All-Star Game. He let us use their field at no charge. In addition, we’ve gained a group of great folks in Atlanta International Umpire Association. Ken Vanderpoel has been awesome for our organization. He has provided many experienced umpires (of all different levels, from Little League to High School to College to International to Professional) in our regular games during the season and our All-Star Game to help maintain a high standard for our games and events.
We also had Ben Poplin, who works with 95.7 The Ridge in Rome, GA (Also works for Rome Braves) do the PA announcing and control the walk-up music for all of the players. In addition, many professional players had sent me messages on Facebook (and I sent many to them introducing myself and the organization) asking, “How can I be apart of this?” Steve Major Sports stopped by and live streamed the entire event from the first at-bat, all the way to the last out. Throughout the months, the support base kept building and building until we had enough support from all departments we needed to make this event happen! It was phenomenal, too! Everyone did an outstanding job!”
The outpouring of support that the ABO and its All-Star Game received has been nothing short of remarkable.
“I would dream about playing pro ball against a lot of these guys. To get the kind of support we’ve gotten from these great guys all these years later is amazing. I’m happy I can provide the dream for the rest of the guys who have worked so hard through practices, regular season games, learning social skills and improving teamwork skills. This organization has been a true highlight of my life. I am so thankful for everyone’s support through the years (from my mom, my mentors, friends, teachers, connections, etc.) that has led to this fantastic year for us.
While the support for the Duncan and the ABO has been robust, he wasn’t always so fortunate.
“People in my life told me I would never be able to lead anything, I would never be able to play competitive sports. A lot of people I’ve met in my life had preconceived ideas of what I could and could not do as a person in general. I’ve learned time and time again: It’s not about what others think! It’s truly about the results at the end of the day. If someone told me “no” to something I’m truly passionate about, I took alternative measures to make it happen. It may be a higher climb, but once you get to the top of the mountain, it’s pretty sweet. I’ll tell you all this: DO NOT EVER LET ANYONE STEAL THE JOY OR YOUR DREAMS AWAY FROM YOU. If they tell you no, you tell them YES. Then, you put in the work and you keep going until you reach the success you want (Regardless of the number of days, weeks, months, years it takes).”
Still in its infancy, the ABO’s first year and All-Star Game have been successful and they continue to work towards achieving 501c3 charity status.
“I think we did great for our first event. We had to build a lot of business relationships with different people around the baseball, autism, and non-profit communities to help us get off the ground running. We raised $1,000 to go towards our 501c3 status. For an organization that hasn’t been around even a year, I think it’s an exceptional performance.”
There’s a bright future ahead for the Duncan and the ABO. One that expands the horizons of baseball everywhere.
“We plan to expand our program and our reach to raise awareness and acceptance for autism and special needs! We’ve already had people in many different states and countries request assistance to start their own ABO programs. We are in the works of starting our own affiliate program. It is still in the infancy stages. As a result, I cannot release any information about how this affiliate program will work until we work out the final details in 2017. I’d love to one day give my team the chance to play on a Major League field, to also make some field trips to historical landmarks in the baseball world. I have many different dreams for this organization I want to accomplish in the coming years. My goal is to have at least one ABO club in all Major League Baseball markets.”
*Photo courtesty of the ABO.