We were scheduled to meet Oliu for an interview at the Tampa Bay Rays baseball field. The crew arrived early but my producer and I were late….hopelessly circling the stadium trying to find the right entrance. So we called Enrique. "I see your crew is already on the field," he said. He then told us which signs to look for, guiding us in through the media gate. Granted, Oliu should know his way around. He's been coming to this stadium for six years. Still, how could he "see" anything? He's been blind since birth.
"I see light and dark and that's about it," he explained to me. Yet Oliu uses the words see and look and watch as if he has 20/20 vision. He says, "if seeing is perception then I can see just as well as the next guy."
Oliu learned how to see the swing of a bat by swinging it himself. He played a modified version of baseball at a school for the blind. When he wanted to understand how Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price threw the ball, he asked the team manager to show him by putting his own arm through the same motion. When he needs information about a player, his wife reads to him from the statistics page. And he remembers EVERTHING.
Enrique knows there are limits to what he can do….he rides the bus to work, his wife reads the sports page for him, his play-by-play partner helps him navigate the stadium stairs…still, he works hard at doing as much as he can on his own. And he doesn't take himself seriously. He described his broadcasting abilities to me this way: "I'm just a blind schmuck who was lucky enough to be handed a microphone!" When we were wrapping up our time together, Enrique pulled out his phone and punched in my name and number. He loves to text. He sent me a message yesterday…wishing me a good day and signing off "the blind schmuck."