- Paco Yu Yin-long, 17, one of the winners of the 2020-21 Hong Kong Outstanding Students Award, struggled to even see the ball when he first started the sport
- The Form Six student from St Paul’s Co-educational College now has no vision issues, as he underwent surgery at the age of 10 for his eye issues
Paco Yu Yin-long was diagnosed with congenital eye diseases when he was about three years old. But it did not stop the 17-year-old from pursuing his passion for baseball.
Now, the student at St Paul’s Co-educational College is one of the winners of the 2020-21 Hong Kong Outstanding Students Award hosted by the Youth Arch Foundation.
Paco’s love for baseball started when he was four years old, watching his sister play the sport.
“It has become intertwined in my life,” the Form Six student said.
At the age of seven, Paco started taking part in games hosted by the Hong Kong Little League, a non-profit organisation that provides baseball training and competitions for children in the city.
However, it was not until 2019 that Paco really entered the playing field. That year, he was selected to join the Hong Kong Youth Baseball League for students aged 16 and below. Going from the Little League to the Youth League was “intense”, Paco recalled.
He not only had to do drills on weekends, but he also had practice during weekdays and travelled abroad for competitions.
One of his most memorable tournaments was the Baseball Federation of Asia (BFA) Championships held in August 2019, where the Hong Kong Youth Team played against Taipei.
Paco said he considered it “the biggest stage” of his baseball career.
“The tears and sweat that I shed on those fields blended into this particular moment,” he said. “I got the chance on this stage to do what I love the most ... and enjoy the atmosphere the game has to offer.”
But for Paco, playing baseball was not easy in the beginning. Because of his astigmatism, which causes blurred vision, the young athlete had to do extra practice sessions on the field.
Sometimes, he explained, while fielding or batting, it would be difficult to see the ball clearly and know where it was.
Paco also had esotropia, meaning one or both of his eyes were turned inward. Before he underwent surgery at the age of 10, his eye diseases created challenges in the classroom, too.
“I was getting easily tired … and it kind of affects learning at school,” the teenager recalled, adding that he would sometimes get double vision, which would alter his depth perception.
Because of these diseases, he had to wear an eye patch for two to three hours every day. He said it was an uncomfortable experience.
“I didn’t want to [cover my eye] at home because it obstructs my vision. It affects the vision of your stronger eye and makes the weak eye do the [work].”
Thanks to his surgeries, Paco no longer suffers any serious vision problems. Now in his final year of secondary school, he said he would focus on his studies while preparing to enter university later this year.