Blind baseball announcer creates 'a theatre of the mind' with his colour commentary

Bryce Weiler, who has been blind since birth, has commentated more than 100 sports games. Now he's working to make baseball more accessible to people with disabilities.
Sports commentator and disabilities advocate Bryce Weiler stands in the baseball dugout surrounded by Pirates coaching staff. (Western Illinois University)
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Bryce Weiler has been the colour commentator for more than 100 baseball, basketball and soccer games on the radio, painting vivid scenes of the play and the crowds, while providing detailed analysis and background on the coaches and athletes.

"I analyze what is happening in the game, since I cannot see the action on the field, so I look up statistics on players and coaches as well as try to speak to a player or a coach for each team as well," the 26-year-old Chicago resident told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

It's as if a book is opening up on the radio in front of you.-  Bryce   Weiler  

Weiler has been blind his entire life, born with retinopathy of prematurity, which causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retinas of premature babies.

He's done radio commentary for dozens of college and minor league games, usually working alongside a play-by-play announcer to provide analysis, background and colour commentary.

He weaves in relevant information from his research about the players and coaches, and tries to paint a picture of the scene so listeners can immerse themselves in the game. For that, he says, a good crowd mic is key. 

"When one listens to a game he [or she] can get pictures in her [or his] mind about what the commentator says about the vendors coming around hawking peanuts and hot dogs or of a foul ball hit into the stands and the mad scramble by small children to go chasing after that baseball," he said.

"So it's really a theatre of the mind, and it's as if a book is opening up on the radio in front of you."

He'll also offer a bit of play-by-play, when the time is right. 

"I also pay attention by tracking first pitch strikes. That can be very useful, when there is a good crowd microphone, so I can hear the umpire calling a pitch, a ball or a strike so I do not have to let the other commentator say that," he said.

While he admits people tend to be surprised by what he does for a living, he says he's just doing his job.

"There's other commentators who've been blind before. I don't really concern myself with what other people think, I just try to go out and commentate the best that I can every day and analyze what is happening in games," he said.

A major example is Enrique Oliu, an analyst for the Tampa Bay Rays' Spanish-language radio broadcasts, who has also been blind since birth. 

Weiler is following in the footsteps of other blind commentators, like Spanish broadcaster Oliu Enrique, left, seen here talking to Hall of Famer Joe Morgan during the 2008 World Series. (Chris O'Meara/Associated Press)

Despite Weiler's professionalism and experience, finding employment in his field is no easy task.

"Most of the analyst roles go to former players and coaches, and the play-by-play roles are handled by individuals who can see," he said. "But I'll still continue to commentate as many games as I can."

But his other passion — making the sports experience more accessible to people with disabilities — has led to career opportunities for Weiler.

He's done some work improving accessibility and fan outreach for theBaltimore Orioles, and next month, he begins working full-time for the Connecticut New Britain Bees minor league baseball team.

"I'm going to commentate for them a little bit, but also work to create programs to help disabled fans have better experiences at their home games, also giving these disabled individuals and groups opportunities to play on the field," he said.

"That is where I can really help individuals is through using my journey through sports to help them have the same experiences that I've been able to have."

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