Tarik El-Abour, a 2010 graduate of San Marino High School, was featured on Sunday morning’s edition of The Today Show for his groundbreaking status as the first autistic player in known professional baseball history.
“No matter where he winds up, this young man is already in a big league of his own,” said NBC’s Kevin Tibbles in his voice over introducing the segment.
Tarik signed a contract with the Kansas City Royals on April 4 of this year and has been participating in what is known in professional baseball circles as extended spring training, or the Fire League, since the action takes place in the Royals’ facility in Surprise, Arizona.
But Tarik’s success is no surprise to anyone who has seen the fervor with which he attacks his favorite sport. Tarik was temporarily sidetracked in May when he broke a bone in his arm after being hit by a pitch, but was back in business by mid-July.
On June 21, 2016, Tarik signed a contract to play professional baseball for the Sullivan, NY Explorers. He then re-upped with the Plattsburg, NY Redbirds for 2017.
He was congratulated by Eddie Gonzales, owner of the Empire Pro Baseball League and later, when recognized by former Major Leaguer Reggie Sanders shortly after inking the deal, Tarik said “I haven’t done anything yet.”
In truth, he had. Tarik El-Abour had become the first autistic player in known professional baseball history.
Last year, Tarik was asked to throw the ceremonial first pitch before the Kansas City Royals April 14 game against the Los Angeles Angels (“Tarik was more worried about throwing the opening pitch than meeting Albert Puhols,” his mother, Nadia Khalil, said with a chuckle). He was also named to the Empire League All-Star team last summer and was named Rookie of the Year for 2016.
Tarik seems typically unfazed by his success. When asked how it felt to be an all-star, Tarik replied, “It felt great, because it was the first time I was an all-star playing competitive baseball, let alone at the professional level. This is a definite step going up.”
He told The Tribune it’s “an honor” to be the first autistic baseball player and he is motivated to keep going because “there will always be that one ‘yes.’”