Outfielder Tarik El-Abour—who was diagnosed with autism at age 3—recently signed with the Kansas City Royals. El-Abour joined the team for spring training and is playing in the club’s minor league.
Several news outlets, along with the Kansas City Royals’ website, state that El-Abour is the first professional baseball player diagnosed with autism.
We have signed outfielder Tarik El-Abour to a minor league contract. El-Abour has handled the challenges presented by autism now earning the opportunity to become a professional baseball player. His signing announcement coincides with tonight's Autism Awareness Night. pic.twitter.com/qzb7ACmXqm
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) April 13, 2018
The 25-year-old Californian has loved baseball since before he started talking at age 6. He played baseball for Pacifica College, which became Bristol University. El-Abour then played for independent leagues, earning the Empire League’s Rookie of the Year award in 2016.
Sports writer Jeffrey Flanagan interviewed Royals special advisor Reggie Sanders for an article on MLB.com about signing El-Abour. Sanders has a younger brother with autism, which inspired the former baseball player to found an organization—RSFCares—helping young people with autism and their families.
According to the article, Sanders invited El-Abour to batting practice last year and felt the young man’s passion and ability would fit well with the Royals culture. “The repetitiveness of autism and the repetitiveness of baseball kind of go hand in hand,” Sanders stated in the article. “It’s great to be able to marry those two.”
Shelley D. Hutchins is content editor/producer for the ASHA Leader. firstname.lastname@example.org.