Baltimore Orioles Become First Pro Sports Team to Wear Braille Jerseys: 'It Really Means a Lot'
The jerseys honored the 40th anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind moving their headquarters to Baltimore
The Baltimore Orioles want everyone to be able to root, root, root for the home team.
On Tuesday, as they faced off against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles became the first professional sports team to wear jerseys with braille lettering at a game, according to Sports Illustrated.
The fashion statement honored the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), which relocated its headquarters to Baltimore 40 years ago, SI reported.
The team’s efforts at inclusion did not stop with the special apparel. Carlos Ibay, a blind concert pianist, performed the national anthem, and Mark Riccobono, the NFB president, threw out the first pitch, The Washington Post reported. The Maryland team passed out cards with the braille alphabet to attendees.
The team hosted 95-year-old Merle Caples, a blind World War II veteran, on the field, according to its Twitter account. She told The Baltimore Sunthat she gets her baseball fix by listening to the radio announcers.
“They are my eyes; they paint a picture for me,” Caples said. “It’s like I’m sitting behind home plate.”
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“We’ve made a conscious effort to create an environment where everyone feels welcome at the ballpark,” Greg Bader, an Orioles vice president, told The Baltimore Sun. “We take our role as entertainer very seriously, but we also want to serve as an escape for some people, and as a platform to highlight the causes and morals that we feel strongly about. A ‘blindness awareness night’ puts it into perspective that there’s more going on out there than just wins and losses.”
Though the Orioles lost, the jerseys were still a hit with baseball players and fans. Erik Rodriguez, a visually impaired man who plays blind beep baseball for the Indy Thunder, reflected on the jerseys to ABC News’ Start Here podcast.
“They’re acknowledging that you’re there,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes that’s the biggest step.”
Riccobono said in a video, “It really means a lot that the Baltimore Orioles are acknowledging [NFB’s time in Baltimore], and not just in a way that says, ‘It’s nice to have you,’ but in a real way that’s authentic to blind people, by including braille, which is the means that blind people use for literacy all across the world.”