The Royals on Friday signed outfielder Tarik El-Abour, who is believed to be the first professional baseball player with autism, to a Minor League contract and assigned him to extended spring training.
“We see this as an outstanding opportunity for Tarik and our organization,” said J.J. Picollo, the Royals’ vice president/assistant for player personnel said. “We are built well for him, we have outstanding coaches, a caring environment and an opportunity to get at-bats in extended spring. Tarik has displayed a work ethic and passion for this game and he’s been successful. We are about providing opportunity and we embrace diversity and inclusion, so this is a good fit for both Tarik and the Royals.”
El-Abour first established a relationship with the Royals last season when he was invited to take batting practice with the club as part of Autism Awareness Night. The annual night also coincides with his signing this year. El-Abour has had a close relationship with Royals advisor and former player Reggie Sanders, who founded an organization dedicated to empowering and enabling individuals with autism.
A native of Southern California, El-Abour played college ball at Pasadena City College and Pacifica College as it was beginning its baseball program. After one season there, Pacifica merged with Bristol University in Anaheim.
El-Abour went undrafted after graduating, but signed with the independent Empire League team in Sullivan, N.Y., and won the league’s Rookie of the Year honors in 2016, hitting .323 in 122 plate appearances. He hit .240 last year for the league-champion Plattsburgh Red Birds.