NEW BRITAIN - The crack of the bat, the sound of the ball hitting the glove, the roar of the crowd. For Bryce Weiler, that’s what the game of baseball is - sounds.
Blind since birth, Weiler was born with a disorder known as retinopathy of prematurity, caused by abnormal blood vessels in the retinas of premature infants. But such sounds have helped the 26-year-old from Chicago broadcast more than 100 baseball, basketball and soccer games over the years, painting a picture for listeners tuning in.
“Being able to give back to fans who might be listening to the games in their cars, and showing them there’s more important things to life than winning games, and really telling them the stories of the players and coaches, that’s what I enjoy doing the most,” Weiler said.
Weiler goes about preparing for a game like most in the business - he does his research, and then some. He spends time looking up facts on the players and coaches and talks to them before the game. He’ll go over the previous game each team has played in to get a sense of what to listen for. Weiler also adds his own insights to broadcasts as well.
“I keep track of trends, such as pitchers starting off a batter with a strike or a ball,” he said. “How the wind might be playing the ball; general advice of baseball, such as when to bunt or take a pitch, things of that nature.”
Weiler remembers the first game he ever commented, a University of Southern Indiana men’s basketball game against the University of Indianapolis in February of 2011, and he’ll provide a clear breakdown of the game if asked.
He attended the University of Evansville in Indiana and began providing commentary for the women’s basketball team. It soon expanded to soccer, baseball and softball, where he developed his usage of weaving in stats and stories into the broadcast.
But Weiler’s love for calling games started long before that.
“I grew up listen to games on the radio,” he said. “I grew up in the Midwest. Brian Berhardt of the [University of Illinois] Fighting Illini and Don Fisher for the Indiana Hoosiers were two commentators who got me into commentating.”
Yet it’s not just commentating that has Weiler’s attention. He wants people with disabilities to enjoy sports as much as he does. Weiler regularly sends out emails to leagues and teams to discuss how to reach out to people with different disabilities to create a better experience.
The emails have reached people such as Boston Celtics (then Butler) head coach Brad Stevens, University of Louisville men’s basketball head coach Rick Pitino, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Baltimore Orioles executive John Angelos.
“For every 50 to 100 people that he reaches out to, he might get one or two responses back,” said Dwayne Hagenow, who became friends with Weiler during their time at graduate school at Western Illinois University, and often travels the country with him, touring sports facilities to see how they can be improved for the disabled. “But even with those responses, he keeps sending emails out to those people, and if they tell him no, he’ll be like, ‘alright. I’ll reach back out to you later on and we’ll talk then.’
“The biggest thing with him is he doesn’t get caught up with titles, it’s more of the influences they have. He doesn’t just look for the biggest names, he looks for who can help disabled people. Who can bring light to it.”
The Orioles flew Weiler to Camden Yards where he and Hagenow walked around and made suggestions including making sure a sign was in the right brail, to having quiet spaces easily accessible, anything that would help the team broaden its fan base to the disabled.
“It’s not just focusing on being blind,” Hagenow said. “But how to make things better for people with all kinds of disabilities and how we can make games more accessible and better for them.”
Now, Weiler’s journey has taken him to another stop - New Britain, where he will work with Bees owner Anthony Iacovone to improve experiences for the disabled at New Britain Stadium. Not only will Weiler help create programs at the stadium for people with disabilities, but also help people with disabilities find jobs with the team.
“It’s about showing it’s OK to be disabled,” Weiler said. “And that a person can overcome the obstacles he or she has in his or her life.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach