GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — One of Miles Huffaker’s favorite places to be is out on the ball field.
“I think it’s a great game,” said Huffaker.
A long-time player turned supporter for his kids, he says baseball teaches courage and perseverance.
“I love the way that it pits individuals against individuals and yet at the same time, with the stroke of a bat, it becomes a team game,” Huffaker said.
That’s why the West Michigan man decided to share his passion for the sport.
“I’m in a position right now where I have the ability and time to help,” Huffaker said.
Huffaker is the manager for the new, Grand Rapids chapter of Alternative Baseball.
It’s a Georgia-based non-profit expanding across the Midwest that provides a chance to play for people ages 15 years and older with autism and other disabilities.
“Not only do you get to play a fun sport like America’s past time, baseball, but it’s also an opportunity to get out there, form the friendships, give it the best you have skill wise,” said Taylor Duncan.
In 2016, Duncan, who is autistic, founded the organization after being denied the opportunity to join a team himself while growing up.
Duncan says the goal is for players to gain the physical and social skills for success in life on and off the diamond, which he notes is critical especially as individuals age out of services available.
“It’s all about giving them the opportunity to just get out there and be themselves in this positive environment, in this encouraging environment, where they’re accepted for who they are and encouraged to be the best that they can be,” Duncan said.
Practice for the Grand Rapids chapter is slated to start at the end of August.
Right now, Huffaker said the team needs player, field space, and equipment.
From there, the team will likely play community groups or other regional chapters once a week.
Huffaker said it’s a chance to become a favorite place to be for someone new.
“I think it’ll be fun,” Huffaker said. “I think it’ll be good to build something, to give those players a chance to develop their skills, ideally I’d like to help them develop off, you know skills they can take to their off baseball life, wether it’s work or their relationships.”
To sign up to be a player or get involved, click here.