“My computer talks to me,” said Weiler, 28. “So every time I hit a letter, it tells me what letter I hit. When there’s a spelling error, it makes a beeping noise and fixes it.”
He usually sends between 50 and 80 emails a day. Occasionally, he sends a couple hundred. How many depends on his schedule, which always changes, but the content is usually the same. The emails relate to his work running a national nonprofit called the Beautiful Lives Project, an organization aimed at improving the lives of people with disabilities through sports and other recreational activities. Weiler contacts teams across leagues and levels about potential partnerships, fundraising, awareness and on-field events in which professional and college athletes play sports with disabled individuals.
Weiler was born four months premature with an eye condition called retinopathy of prematurity. In only extremely rare cases (roughly 500 annually in the United States, according to the National Eye Institute), infants with the condition become legally blind. But despite his inability to see, those close to Weiler describe him as having a “vision.”
“[Bryce] seems to be committed to bringing people with different backgrounds and facing different challenges — or not facing challenges — together,” said John Angelos, executive vice president of the Baltimore Orioles. “I thought that was really fascinating because there’s not too much of that.”
Weiler said he has contacted every team in Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NFL, and received responses from all but two. He calls NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred “friends,” having developed relationships with them through his work with the nonprofit. His strongest ties in professional sports, however, are to two team executives: Angelos of the Orioles and Anthony Iacovone of the New Britain Bees, an independent baseball team in the Atlantic League located in central Connecticut.
Angelos hired Weilerin 2016 to work as the Orioles’ disability consultant. In this role, Weiler is a liaison between the team and disability advocacy groups, organizes on-field events, trains staff members on how to assist those with disabilities and provides suggestions for making the ballpark more accessible. He thinks about things most people do not, such as creating Braille signage for blind fans, ensuring that tactile strips on the stairs are in good condition, checking wheelchair seats to make sure they are not blocked and testing the PA system so it’s at a comfortable level for fans with noise sensitivity. (He said most stadium speakers are too loud.)
In addition to his nonprofit and consulting work, Weiler has found another seemingly improbable inroad into the world of sports: commentating. He grew up listening to the voices of Mike Shannon of the St. Louis Cardinals and Pat Hughes of the Chicago Cubs on the radio and began announcing various sporting events as a commentator at the University of Evansville, where he studied sports management and communication before earning his master’s degree in sports administration from Western Illinois University. He eventually settled into his current role as a color commentator for the Bees in 2017.
“I got an email from Bryce out of the blue, and the first sentence was, ‘My name is Bryce Weiler. I’m a 26-year-old blind individual who color commentates baseball games,’ ” Iacovone said. “I was like, ‘Whoa, let me read the next sentence.’ ”
To offer insight into the game, Weiler spends hours looking up players, memorizing statistics and interviewing athletes and coaches. Rather than providing play-by-play or technical analysis, Weiler shares the information he researches with listeners.
“Someone who can see can talk about how a batter shouldn’t be leaning back on their back foot when they hit the ball, which is why they’re popping so many balls up to center field,” Weiler said. “I can’t give that type of commentary, but I can talk about the facts. I can talk about the lives of the players and coaches or track first-pitch strikes or how many times the pitcher got the first batter of the inning out.”
Weiler said he has done commentary for nearly 140 different sporting events, but it’s not his favorite job. That would be running the Bees’ on-field program, which is how Weiler first became involved with organizing events between the team and disability groups in 2017.
“I’m really thankful that everyone participating in the events has that opportunity,” Weiler said. “I’m also grateful for all the players and coaches, and others who come out for the programs we do across the country, whether in sports or other activities. Because while I’m there making sure everything runs okay, the fans playing on the field, they’re there to play with actual [players].”
Amy Alexander attended a Beautiful Lives Project event over the summer with her 15-year-old son, Ryan, who has an intellectual disability and seizure disorder. She said it was cool to see her son working with the players her family occasionally watches from the bleachers.
“It’s always nice getting some professionals to come out and give our kids a little assistance and camaraderie,” Alexander said. “And certainly [the players] are super nice. It’s just a lot of fun to do.”
The manager of the Bees, Mauro “Goose” Gozzo, attended the same event as Alexander.
“If there’s any reluctance to doing it initially, once the [players] go out there, you see the smiles on their faces and then for a half-hour or hour afterward, they’re still talking about their favorite person,” Gozzo said. “They start to appreciate what they’re doing and see that maybe their issues are not so bad.”
That’s what the never-ending work is about for Weiler — creating connections and making the world a little more accessible in places where it once wasn’t. It’s what keeps him thinking about the next person to contact and what draws him to his keyboard at 4 in the morning.
“There’s a lot of work to be done every day,” he said.