Bangor Alternative Baseball Finished Its 1st Season With One And Only Game Sunday
Bill MacDonald's 15-year-old son, Christian, has spent the last few years watching his younger brother, Michael, practice and play baseball. At one of Michael's last games, MacDonald heard Christian utter under his breath, "I wish I could play baseball at Mansfield Stadium one day."
This year, that wish came true, with the creation of the Bangor Alternative Baseball Organization.
According to the Bangor Alternative Baseball Facebook Page, "Alternative Baseball provides an authentic baseball experience for teens and adults (ages 15+) with autism and other disabilities for physical and social skills enrichment in life on and off the baseball diamond. In Alternative Baseball, games are played using professional league rules."
The Alternative Baseball Organization, on a national level, was started by a young man named Taylor Duncan. Hailing from the south, and growing up on the Autism Spectrum, Duncan spent years not being able to play the game he loved because of his diagnosis. So in 2016, Duncan founded the Alternative Baseball Organization, to give folks like him a chance to experience what it feels like to play the game.
"Taylor decided it was time to give those opportunities to other teens and adults (ages 15+) just like him to play in a traditional baseball setting free of judgment; Instead, focusing on physical and social skills growth through the hands-on authentic experience in all practices and games. Some of the players have since taken their skills to apply into other areas in life off the baseball diamond, including employment."
The National program caught the eye of local baseball coaches Mike Vining and Kevin Stevenson, who joined forces with another well-known local coach, Tim Collins. The three coaches came up with a plan to start a Bangor Chapter of the Alternative Baseball Organization and reached out to Duncan to go through the application process.
In September, they were approved and had solidified an agreement with the folks at Mansfield Stadium to hold practices there for 2 hours a week. Then the men reached out to local media outlets to spread the word and put the call out for players.
Bill MacDonald was driving home from his job teaching Adult Ed at the Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston when he heard about Bangor's newest baseball league and didn't even hesitate. He pulled his vehicle over to the side of the road and registered Christian immediately.
"I didn't have to think about it. I knew if Kevin Stevenson and Mike Vining were involved, that my son would play baseball," MacDonald said. He said in this, its first year in existence, the Bangor Alternative Baseball- or BAB team- consisted of about 14 players between the ages of 15 and 45 years old. MacDonald said that, unlike ordinary teams where players are dropped off and family members don't usually attend the practices, he noticed that most of the BAB families stayed to watch their players and cheer them on.
The Bangor Alternative Baseball program is the only Alternative Baseball team to the North and East of New York. Basically, it's the only one of its kind in New England. That has posed a particular challenge to this team this first year at-bat, since they essentially had no one else to play this season.
So, after all of their practices, the coaches came up with the fantastic idea of having their BAB players play a team of local celebrities and Allstars, in a big "end of season" celebration that took place at Mansfield Stadium this past Sunday afternoon.
"The excitement was palpable. It was just electric at Mansfield," MacDonald said as he described the atmosphere of the game.
MacDonald said there was no shortage of "celebrities" who were eager to play this team. And, aided by University athletes from Husson, who joyfully volunteered their time and services to this budding baseball team, throughout the season, the final result of the first and only game played by Bangor Alternative Baseball this year was 24 to 2.
Even Bananas the Bear took a swing at helping, but just couldn't deliver in the end.
Christian held his own, getting to pitch some in the 4th and 5 innings, and even got a couple of hits.
MacDonald said his son reached Cloud 9 that day, with a smile that lit up the room and still hasn't stopped.
He hopes that some other communities in Maine will set up more Alternative Baseball teams for kids like Christian and that one day the Bangor Alternative Team will have other teams to play against.