Canadian authors Mark Kingwell and Stacey May Fowles were in Calgary on June 21st to talk baseball at Memorial Park Library. Ian Wilson caught up with both writers recently. Here’s his Q&A with Stacey May Fowles, author of Baseball Life Advice: Loving the Game That Saved Me, who talks about Calgary’s baseball scene, women at the ballpark and her favourite baseball authors.
Q: You were in Calgary on June 21st for a Wordfest event. Have you been to Calgary before? How was your visit? What were the highlights?
A: The last time couple of times I’ve been in Calgary it was for my job, or when I was en route to Banff, so this time around I got a free afternoon to wander around and really enjoy it. I visited a museum, browsed a bookstore, and ate a lot of tacos. It was a lovely trip, and the highlight was obviously chatting baseball with so many amazing people.
Q: What was your impression of Calgary baseball fans?
A: At the Wordfest event everyone was so warm and thoughtful and enthusiastic about the game. It was so wonderful to be in that room and such a blessing to talk to people so passionate about baseball. It really made me think about how much Torontonians take for granted in terms of MLB ballpark proximity.
I’m sort of ashamed to say I was surprised by all that energy … I really had no idea that Calgary was such a committed, devoted baseball town. I have a great deal of admiration and love for that.
Q: You’ve written on the healing power and therapeutic aspects of being a baseball fan. But you’ve done that from a place where you have great access to live Major League Baseball. In Alberta, our nearest MLB ballparks (Seattle and Minneapolis) are a short flight but a long drive from home. Any advice for the baseball fans here on how best to enjoy the game? Should they follow on TV or take in the live product nearest them?
A: I’ve always been a big proponent of the healing power of the ballpark, but for me it could really be any ballpark. Even a diamond at my local park will do. In fact, some of the more therapeutic visits I’ve had have been to “stadiums” most wouldn’t recognize the name of. Of course I love a good, grand, buzzing MLB site, but that atmosphere can really flourish anywhere. When I can’t make it out there, I’ll definitely lounge with a broadcast. Basically baseball is good no matter how you consume it.
Q: You’ve also written about women and baseball. We recently saw 19-year-old Claire Eccles become the first woman to play in the West Coast League. Last year, FOX aired the TV show “Pitch” about the first woman to break into MLB (although it only lasted one season). What are your thoughts on the current status of women in baseball – as fans, as journalists and as athletes?
A: Whenever I’m asked this question I tend to answer it as optimistically as I possibly can, but I’m going to admit here that there are certainly days where I’m frustrated, and angry, and exhausted. There are even days where I think about giving up.
The reality is that sports culture can still be a very toxic and cruel place, not only for women but for anyone who falls outside what is deemed the status quo. I, of course, can’t speak for female athletes, but I imagine the way they’re treated, and the pervasive lack of support can’t be all that easy to endure either.
I know that things are so much better than they were even five years ago, and that things are getting better all the time, but rarely a week goes by that I am not reminded by someone’s words or gesture that women are often excluded, or worse. I suppose all I can do is try to remain positive, show up and do the work, and support those who are trying to make things better for everyone.
Q: On the literary front, we’re partial to Edmonton-born author W.P. Kinsella. What baseball authors or books do you love and why? Any recommended reading for baseball fans in Alberta?
A hilarious thing about me is that I never finished Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding because I loved it so much I didn’t want it to end. Like so many others I’m a huge fan of Roger Angell’s writing on the game, and could easily say he’s a huge part of the reason I made the jump to sports writing in the first place. In fact, I take The Summer Game with me down to Spring Training with me every year and casually thumb through it. I also love Allison Gordon’s book, Foul Balls, to the point where I’ve bought multiple editions.
But more than anything else, I’m excited by newer writers who are experimenting with voice and subject matter, and changing the way we discuss this game. There’s so much fun, interesting writing online now, from so many different perspectives, and it’s so inspiring and buoying to see it flourish.