KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WIBW) -- Many times, a Major League team signing a player and sending him to extended spring training has no impact on fans.
The signing made by the Kansas City Royals Friday means a little more.
The Royals signed outfield Tarik El-Abour, a player believed to be the first professional baseball player with autism.
“We see this as an outstanding opportunity for Tarik and our organization,” said J.J. Picollo, Royals’ Vice President/Assistant G.M. for Player Personnel. “We are built well for him, we have outstanding coaches, a caring environment and an opportunity to get at-bats in Extended Spring."
El-Abour, a San Marino, Calif. native, played his freshman year of college baseball at Pasadena City College. After transferring, he earned a starting spot with Pacifica College.
"Tarik has displayed a work ethic and passion for this game and he’s been successful," Picollo said. "We are about providing opportunity and we embrace diversity and inclusion, so this is a good fit for both Tarik and the Royals.”
Reggie Sanders, a former player and current advisor for the Royals, founded an organization dedicated to empowering and enabling people with autism. Last season, Sanders invited El-Abour to take batting practice with the Royals before a game against the Los Angeles Angels as part of Autism Awareness Night.
This season, El-Abour was signed on Autism Awareness Night which happens to be against the Angels.
He went undrafted after college, but played for the Sullivan Explorers in the independent Empire League. He won Rookie of the Year in 2016 after hitting .323.