KC Royals sign player with autism to minor-league contract

Tarik El-Abour, an outfielder with autism who was signed to a minor-league contract by the Kansas CIty Royals, someday may play at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

The Kansas City Royals signed a player with autism to a minor-league baseball contract Friday, WDAF reported.

Tarik El-Abour, 25, an outfielder from San Marino, California, was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 and did not speak until he was 6. He is believed to be the first player with autism to sign with a major-league baseball organization, the Kansas City Star reported.

“Baseball and autism are very similar in terms of discipline and repetitiveness,” former Royals player and team special adviser Reggie Sanders told WDAF. “It kind of goes hand-in-hand. It’s a beautiful thing when it can marry together.”

Sanders’ 40-year-old brother, Demetrius, was diagnosed with autism at age 3, the Star reported. Sanders decided to launch a foundation to spread awareness about the condition.

“We’re doing something that provides an opportunity for people to see what it looks like for inclusion, number one, and creates that awareness — but also in sustainability,” Sanders, who ended his 17-year major-league career in 2007 after two seasons with the Royals, told the Star. “For me, that’s really what tugs my heart.”

El-Abour played baseball at Pasadena City College in California and transferred to Concordia University after his sophomore year. After being cut by Concordia, El-Abour played at Pacifica College and Bristol University.

In 2016, El-Abour played in the independent Empire League and won rookie-of-the-year honors after hitting .323, the Star reported. Last year, El-Abour batted .240 in league play.

El-Abour will play in rookie-league games at the Royals’ extended spring training facility in Surprise, Arizona, WDAF reported.