LEE COUNTY, Fla. — An 'all-inclusive' baseball organization is making it's way to Southwest Florida.
The Alternative Baseball Organization is looking for players and volunteers to help start a program for teens (15+) and adults with special needs.
Taylor Duncan, the founder of The Alternative Baseball Organization, says this program is designed to encourage people with special needs to play the sport and learn essential skills.
"We strive to accept everyone for who they are, encourage them to be the best they can be, and instill the confidence needed for each one of them to fulfill dreams on and off the baseball diamond," said Duncan.
Duncan developed a love for baseball at a young age, but getting to play wasn't always easy.
"I dealt with a lot of speech issues, sensory issues, and anxiety issues growing up," said Duncan.
At the age of 4, he was diagnosed with autism, and while his mom and mentors helped him overcome many of his obstacles — getting to play traditional baseball was a different story.
"I still had to face a lot of social stigmas from those who thought they knew what one with autism can and cannot accomplish," said Duncan.
But Duncan didn't let those adversities stop him from playing baseball.
In 2016, he started The Alternative Baseball Organization in his home state of Georgia with just seven players.
Within four years, the program has expanded to 14 states.
"With the positive experiences that I have gotten through the game, I really wanted to give back, and I knew that our players and others just like myself can benefit from this league."
The co-ed baseball program is designed for all levels and follows major league rules.
Duncan says the program helps provide people on the spectrum with services that are often cut off once they graduate from school.
"Autism and other disabilities, they don't stop at age 18, and we have to continue providing resources in order for them to continue their path towards independence as they get older," said Duncan.
Duncan says the program helps players develop team chemistry skills needed both on and off the baseball field, such as communication skills.
"just something as simple as calling for a ball in the outfield 'I got it, I got it,' and catching it in a glove, you have to communicate that to your team," said Duncan.
But the program isn't just to help people with special needs, it's also to raise awareness and break stigmas.
"When people give us the opportunity to show them what we can do rather than focusing on can't, the sky is the limit for what can be accomplished," said Duncan.
To sign up to play, volunteer, or donate, can visit alternativebaseball.org.