Episode 023 – Stacey May Fowles, Baseball Writer

Stacey May Fowles

Bobbi-Sue interviews award-winning novelist, journalist, and essayist, Stacey May Fowles for this week’s interview. Stacey May Fowles is the author of the Baseball Life Advice e-newsletter. She released a book by the same name this past year which is an essay collection that looks at topics ranging from bat flips to bandwagoners, from the romance of spring training to the politics of booing. Stacey May is not afraid to broach the subjects of mental health, sexism, and other cultural issues related to baseball in her writing. This is a wide-ranging interview that touches on all these topics plus women in sports journalism, cute animals, and pregnancy aversions. She has also written three novels all linked below.

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Additional Show Notes:
  • During taping, Stacey May was baking Jessica Luther’s banana bread recipe. A recipe which she still needs to send me.
  • Introduced to baseball by her dad and she was going to Blue Jays games as the team was really good.
  • She started her career as an arts and culture writer. studied literature.
  • In 2011 Stacey went through a dark depression. She had experienced anxiety most of her adult life but the depression was new.
  • Baseball helped bring her out of her depression.
  • Canadian winter is hard and Stacey uses baseball as her light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Baseball encompasses a lot of the qualities that are suggested for those dealing with mental health: there is structure to it including its frequency, soothing action not dictated by a stopwatch.
  • BSDH and SMF discuss the differences between football and baseball including the frequency and length of the off-season.
  • SMF sometimes calls the Boston Red Sox the “evil empire” but she does like Dustin Pedroia.
  • When the pitchers and catchers report in mid-February, it gives you a feeling of spring no matter what is outside your door.
  • SMF always goes down to Florida for Spring Training and it gives a nice break from the Toronto winter.  This year, SMF did not come down for Spring Training because she was three weeks from her due date at the time of taping.
  • Bobbi-Sue learns about Exhibition Stadium and how a dome is a necessity in Canada. She talks about how Fenway is her version of church. And then she quotes SMF to SMF: “Baseball became ‘my thing’, and its stadiums my church, a place to pray in times of hopelessness, the source of a solace I couldn’t find elsewhere I never feel more human or more sane than I do inside a ballpark”
  • Baseball is one of the only places where SMF has found the things that church or religion often represent to others.
  • The culture of baseball could easily be what turns people away from sports and SMF became a fan despite that. Some of that includes the “women shouldn’t even be in the ballpark” and “do you even like sports?”
  • SMF started writing about baseball just because she enjoyed it. She wasn’t being paid at the time and it seemed like an escape from the rest of her writing.
  • The extreme work environment for players is always so bizarre. Pitchers, in particular, show the depths of resilience. It’s a good lesson for those who suffer with mental illness.
  • SMF is a narrative baseball fan, meaning she loves the human stories not necessarily the stats or feats of athleticism.
  • Bobbi-Sue wants to see more baseball players with cats in SMF’s newsletter. Both women love pictures of players with little kiddos and #SportsDoingGood.
  • SMF has some serious opinions on ballpark hot dogs. For her first 12 weeks of pregnancy, she had an aversion to the smells at the ballpark which made being a baseball writer slightly difficult.
  • The women swoon over certain ballparks and how beautiful they are – Fenway, JetBlue Park, and Steinbrenner Field included.
  • Spring Training is low pressure and a ton of fun. The guys are usually having a good time because it doesn’t mean anything.
  • Unpopular opinion: SMF loves bandwagon fans!
  • SMF talks about Allison Gordon and her legacy.
  • Stacey May has written three novels. Bobbi-Sue hasn’t read them and SMF makes her feel bad about that. SMF tells students and people interested in writing to take the opportunities that sound fun and exciting and then narrow as you decide what you want to do.
  • One of SMF’s novels was optioned for a movie!
  • SMF’s writing habits and routines have evolved. When she had a full-time position, she had to slip the writing in here and there. Now, as a full-time freelancer, she has to make sure to schedule in downtime. Otherwise, she’ll work all the time.
  • Shout out to Jessica Luther and Shireen Ahmed by SMF.

Quotable moments:

  • “The idea that sports was for jocks got to me and I separated from my love of baseball.”
  • “For someone with depression, watching something and knowing you care is a big deal.”
  • “It’s the kind of thing that keeps you going.”
  • “I haven’t perfected the art of distracting myself between November to February.”
  • “Sometimes I think that may be why I love baseball because it gives you an early spring.”
  • “A team forfeited because they were like ‘I just can’t with this weather.'”
  • “I love that you think that I get into stats.”
  • “I think that there’s this misconception about sports that to be able to talk about them with authority or to be able to write about them that you have to have this encyclopedic knowledge of the minutiae of it all. But when I’m writing a book, I’m looking stuff up.”
  • “When you’re feeling emotions, you’re not going to remember the tiniest detail. That’s what we have reference material for.”
  • “I like who I am when I love baseball.”
  • “It’s an experience of awareness on so many levels.”
  • “You wouldn’t ask someone ‘do you even like banking?'”
  • “It’s always early and then it’s late.”
  • “Mental illness sort of tricks you into believing that you can’t turn anything around… [baseball] is a nice tidy metaphor that things can turn around quickly.”
  • “Why wouldn’t you want more people loving your team?”
  • “If your favorite player is going to be the nice guy, that seems like a good reason.”
  • “There was nothing particularly revolutionary about what she was trying to do but everything she did was revolutionary.”

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