Oliu cherishes the bond that he forms daily with his baseball listeners in radio land, as he calls it. His wife, Debbie, says he has never complained of being tired from pulling double duty; he has worked full-time for 28 years as a community outreach representative and interpreter at the Hillsborough County Public Defender’s office.
He might eventually retire from his day job, he said, but never from behind the microphone. “You’re going to have to bury me here,” he said. He is grateful that his beloved sport is being played at all, even if it doesn’t sound the same.
“I’ve always been a very optimistic guy from the day my parents sent me away to boarding school at the age of 5 all the way up to now,” he said. “I always try to find something good. Is it better not to have baseball? No. So, it’s great.”
Born in Matagalpa, a city in central Nicaragua, where baseball is the national sport, Oliu left home as a young boy to attend a school for the blind in Costa Rica because it was the only one in Central America at the time, he said.
Five years later, without knowing any English, Oliu moved in with his aunt to study at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine. There, he learned from a teacher how to visualize what he was hearing while devouring sports on the radio and dreamed of becoming a broadcaster himself, much like Milo Hamilton or Marv Albert.
“My dad always said, ‘How you going to do it? I don’t want to hear about you want to do it. Show me,’” Oliu said. “That was his thing: No one is going to care if you’re blind or not so you better have resolve.”
After building up experience calling minor league and senior professional baseball games, Oliu broke into the major leagues in 1998. Orestes Destrade, who met Oliu at Florida College before going on to play four seasons in the major leagues, recommended his old classmate for the expansion Rays’ Spanish-language broadcast, and Oliu has been with the club ever since.