Enrique Oliu is known to fans of the Tampa Bay Rays as in insightful and riveting sportscaster. His Spanish language coverage of their baseball games has been a crowd favorite since 1998, an amazing thing for a sportscaster lacking sight. Oliu can only see vague spots of light; his vision is effectively gone.
Reactions to him tend to be dominated by surprise and respect once his ability is demonstrated. Ray Glier at USA Today shows this in talking to one of the Rays:
“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.
But it is not just simple statistics that Oliu relies on. His partner Taveras does the play-by-plays and then Oliu follows with the commentary. This is where Oliu truly shines as his depth of knowledge is shown to great effect: hours spent in the clubhouse conversing with the players, the scanning of news stories and commentaries, and the assistance of his wife who sits next to him whispering occasional statistics into his ear all combine to create a formidable presence on the air.
In Glier’s article, he talks about Oliu identifying a bad pitch purely off of the sound of the crowds reaction to it. Not bad for a man who got his break because a TV producer sensed sideshow potential. Another small clip from Glier’s article reads:
Oliu got his first break in 1989 when the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” television show heard about him doing sports commentary for a local station. They arranged for him to call one inning of a game of the Jacksonville Expos, a Class AA team.
Ripley’s was there for a carnival act. Oliu was there for a shot at a dream.
He was so adept that instead of one inning, the club allowed him to work three. When it was over, he had a demo tape and held tight to it while he did various broadcasts around Tampa.
In 1998, he got the opportunity to audition for the Rays’ Latin Booth at an exhibition games before the start of the season. Rick Vaughn, the club’s vice president of communications called it “amazing!” He has now kept the fans informed and entertained for over a decade.