Lisa Bowes knows sports.
A long-time journalist with TSN, The Score and CTV, she was getting ready to cover women’s hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver when she realized something was missing from the sports world.
Reading to her young child as part of their night-time routine, she didn’t see many books that introduced kids to the different kinds of sports.
“I got off the air one day and said, ‘My gosh, we have an opportunity here,’” Bowes told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast.
With that, Lucy was born.
Nearly 15 years later, the Lucy Tries Sports series now has six books to its name, including Bowes’ latest offering, Lucy Tries Baseball.
It’s been a labour of love for the author, who sees the books as serving two purposes.
“I really care about where our next generation is headed in terms of our physical activity,” Bowes said. “It is an educational resource tool, but as I carried on with the series, we then recognized we need to inspire our kids to be active and to persevere.”
It’s something she, herself, has had to do in making the sixth book become a reality.
WHAT’S ON DECK
After starting with luge, then moving onto short-track speedskating, soccer, hockey and basketball, Bowes started to brainstorm which sport should be next.
The Toronto-born and Guelph-raised journalist started writing Lucy Tries Baseball in 2019, but didn’t actually get a publishing contract until two years later.
“I really felt strongly, especially because I was super-impressed with what Major League Baseball has been doing over the last number of years to really include a lot of female voices in their business,” Bowes said.
“Whether it be minor league hitting coaches, all the way to Kim Ng, the general manager of the Miami Marlins who, in fact, I was so inspired by her story that our third base coach in the book is actually inspired by her.”
To help tell the story, she leaned on Al Price and his son, Scott, who are well-known in Alberta for Big Al Baseball and for their work in grassroots baseball in the province.
Bowes wanted to find something for Lucy to overcome, and found the answer after what she calls a long and wonderful conversation with Al.
“Young children have that fear of being hit by a pitch,” she said. “That is really a key element in Lucy Tries Baseball is that she is facing that fear, and she’s a little worried and nervous about being hit by it.”
Lucy faces that fear with the help of her coach, who is named Al in honour of Price.
A HUGE HIT
After writing the prose for the book, Bowes then had to work with her long-time illustrator, James Hearne, to make Lucy and her baseball adventure come to life.
All told, she says it took the better part of four years to get to the finished product, which arrived on store shelves on April 11th.
Bowes is proud of the final product, as it’s another chapter in having her character try different things, just as she hopes kids will do.
“Lucy and her diverse set of friends are trying different sports, and when they’re trying, they are realizing there are things they have to overcome and persevere,” she said. “It’s really mirroring what we have to do in real life.”
The book has also received acclaim from a number of prominent baseball people in Canada, including journalists like Dan Shulman and Arash Madani, and former players like Justin Morneau and Chris Reitsma.
In the latter, Bowes smiles about how things have come full-circle.
“Chris and I go back to when he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox and I remember we were live with TSN in front of his family home here in Calgary,” she recalled. “It’s kind of neat to then, literally almost 30 years later, have him support this endeavour.”
Bowes has also received positive accolades with reviews from Kirkus, CM: Canadian Review of Materials, and the School Library Journal in New York.
“Appealing cartoon illustrations and simple text offer a fast-moving overview of the game,” wrote the New York-based review. “Emphasizing inclusion and playing for fun, this title will be a hit with preschool and primary grade readers.”
Bowes adds the most-meaningful feedback she gets is from the educators and librarians who reach out to her, saying that the books have been a huge hit with their students.
ROUNDING THE BASES
It’s not the only moment of serendipity that Bowes has felt in releasing Lucy Tries Baseball.
After breaking into the sports journalism world as an editorial assistant with TSN in 1989, Bowes later became a reporter and commentator, and made Canadian broadcasting history in 2000 when she became the play-by-play voice for the National Women’s Hockey League.
She has seen the world of sports change dramatically over the years, especially with the recent surge in popularity and coverage of women’s sports.
“I think it’s pretty amazing, especially because when I was working for The Score or Headline Sports, we were actually, in many ways, ahead of the curve there,” Bowes said.
“There’s a hardcore sports network and we had a show called Sports Axxess, which we did for a couple of seasons and it saw incredible numbers as a show about females who were in sports.”
She points to the interest shown in the national soccer and basketball teams, as well as what happened stateside with March Madness, as proof that the times have finally started to change.
Bowes sees baseball in the same light, with stories like Ashley Stephenson being named to the Vancouver Canadians coaching staff and Melanie Newman doing play-by-play for the Baltimore Orioles.
“I think that’s why I felt so strongly about pitching to the publisher that we needed a baseball book,” she said. “Part of my pitch was a nine-point reason on why we needed a Lucy Tries Baseball, and I’m so glad that Orca Book Publishers said yes.”
Bowes has hit a home run with her latest offering, and, as she’s rounding the bases, hopes to get it in the hands of as many kids as possible.