Tarik El-Abour is a unique individual in the diverse world of Major League Baseball. El-Abour, an outfielder who was raised in San Marino, California, recently signed a deal with the Kansas City Royals after spending the last two seasons with the Empire Pro Baseball League. In 2016, El-Abour was named the Empire League’s Rookie of the Year after batting .323 in 122 plate appearances and in 2017, he won a championship with the Plattsburgh Red Birds. However, it’s not his rise from humble beginnings that make his story so improbable.
He’s not an elite prospect. He’s expected to remain in the minors for the 2018 season. However, El-Abour’s deal is significant because he’s considered the first individual with autism to sign with a major league club.
His mother, Nadia Khalil, recounted the ways El-Tabour’s mind operates differently and how those differences accentuated his drive to pursue a baseball career.
“That is when I started to see the workings of the autistic mind,” said Khalil. “I started to see how numbers had a lot to do with how he thinks. Those of us without autism think in concepts, he thinks in numbers. The greater the number of times he did anything, the better he was at it. Just like us. However, the way the numbers worked in his mind went way further than anything I could have yet imagined. He knew he had to practice. He knew he loved it. He told me that when he grew up and played baseball, he would buy me a house wherever he plays, so that I could watch his games live. He did not know yet how different he was. He did not know yet how autism was going to speak for him before he could speak for himself.”
Remarkably, that passion for numbers extended to baseball, a sport built on the importance of numbers. Whether El-Abour ever reaches the majors is irrelevant. Autism is a condition that affects 3.5 million Americans in a variety of ways and his presence on the baseball diamond is an inspiration to them all.
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