Blindness No Barrier for MLB Rays Radio Broadcaster Oliu

Blindness No Barrier for MLB Rays Radio Broadcaster Oliu

Posted on Jun.24, 2009, by , under Inspirational Stories

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Enrique Oliu rocks in his chair in the Tampa Bay Rays broadcast booth, his head cocked in the air, not pointed toward the diamond below. He describes what he just heard, not what he just saw.

“That sound from the fans when Carlos Pena struck out sounded like they were disgusted, so I said on the air, ‘Carlos swung at a bad pitch,’ ” Oliu said. “You don’t hear that reaction very much from fans when he is up.”

Sure enough, on a two-strike changeup, trying to protect himself at the plate, Pena swung at a pitch that was up and away.

It was his mind’s eye that offered the perfect view for Oliu. It is that way on every pitch, because he is blind.

Oliu, the 47-year old analyst for the Rays’ Spanish-language radio broadcasts, has been rocking in that chair since 1998 and uses memory, pregame interviews with players, his alliance with play-by-play man Ricardo Taveras, and a passion for the game to make up for what should be an obvious obstacle.

He can’t see the field, but he handles the calls in the booth as routinely as a second baseman does a two-hopper.

“When I first got here and heard about the team’s blind announcer, I am thinking, like a lot of people, ‘This is a joke, right?’ ” Rays catcher Dioner Navarro said. “And then you meet him and you see his ability to recall statistics and events and talk the game. I told him the names of my wife and kids one time, and he remembered them.

“I know he should have his limitations, but it is hard to know what they might be.”

Oliu has been blind since his birth in Nicaragua and can only make out bright lights, yet he has a feel for the game that makes him effective. His wife, Debra Perry, sits to his right and will lean in and whisper a statistic between pitches or at-bats, but the rest is up to Oliu.

“My parents told me I had to outwork people because I was behind the 8 ball,” Oliu said. “They said it wasn’t good enough to be just as good….

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