Welcome to Day 9 of the “EMPTY SEATS” Blog Tour! @EmptySeatsNovel @4WillsPub #RRBC #Baseball
I am honored today to host Author Wanda Fischer on my blog.
IF YOU ARE A BASEBALL LOVER YOU HAVE TO READ THIS
GIVEAWAYS: During this tour, the author is giving away (1) $10 Amazon Gift Card, (2) $5 Amazon Gift Cards, (2) e-book copies of EMPTY SEATS & (1) copy of the author’s acclaimed “SINGING ALONG WITH THE RADIO” CD which features many prominent folk music singers (a $15 value)! For your chance to win, all you have to do is leave a comment below as well as leaving a comment on the author’s 4WillsPub tour page. GOOD LUCK!
OVER TO YOU, WANDA!
Day Nine (Empty Seats)
When the book first came out at the end of 2017, the Houston Astros had just won the World Series. I’ve always been partial to the Astros (not as much as the Red Sox, of course), since the local minor-league baseball club, the Tri-City Valley Cats, is the low-A affiliate of the team, and I had the chance to watch some of the 2017 stars, such as Jose Altuve and George Springer begin their careers in a small ballpark about 20 miles from where I live.
I attend several games every summer at the stadium known locally as The Joe, named in honor of Joseph Bruno, the former New York State Senator who secured funding to have the facility built. It’s a great place to watch a baseball game, especially for people with children, because it’s affordable, it has a casual atmosphere, and the kids get to participate in some on-field activities during every game. The staff finds fun things for the kids to do, and they have creative “theme” nights, as well as frequent fireworks.
When the ballpark first opened, the Valley Cats invited me several times per season to sing The National Anthem before the game. I would go out on the field and see these young guys in the dugout—aged 18, 19, 20, maybe—and look into their faces, knowing that they had a dream to play professional baseball. They also looked, to me, anyway, as a mother and grandmother, as if they were a little lost, sitting in that dugout. So many were far away from home, some not even speaking English, and I just saw a longing in their faces that was part of the inspiration for my writing Empty Seats.
When they left the dugout and went onto the field, however, it was a different story. That lost feeling left their faces, replaced by a spark, ignited by a little white ball, a bat, and a leather glove. They came alive when they were playing the game they love, the game they dreamed would make them big stars, would allow them to soar to new heights that might even eclipse what they’d imagined in those dreams from when they were little kids, facing a ball on a tee for the first time.
That excitement is what I attempted to capture in my novel, while simultaneously incorporating what happens to these anxious, talented young men who’d been told all their lives that they were the best, that they’d make it all the way if they only put their minds to it and worked hard—but when life gets it the way, as it does for all of us—what happens? Is it a simple slap in the face when one of these players doesn’t make it to the next level or is told to go home for good? Do the choices these athletes make off the field interfere with the aspirations they’ve had for their entire young lives?
A large percentage of the young men I see every year at the Valley Cats games won’t go any further than that, whether they’ve been recruited by the Astros or they’re playing against the Valley Cats on a different team. That’s the reality of the situation. The players on Major League Baseball teams are the cream of the crop, the best of the best, and many have gone through incredible challenges to get achieve that goal. Once in MLB, they face constant injuries, criticism from fans and sportswriters, and life on the road that leaves them separated from their families for months at a time. The MLB season consists of 162 games per year, and, while players are paid well, they also face a grueling travel schedule that often includes personal appearances on the side.
Someone reading this may say, “Well, I’d do that if I were making that kind of money,” but it’s not that easy. Staying in shape year-round, facing the prospect of career-ending injuries, and the pressure the travel schedule puts on one’s family can take its toll. Pitchers, in particular, these days seem to be undergoing surgery on their elbow named after Tommy John, because he’s the first pitcher who had the surgery successfully. Two of the most successful pitchers—one in the American League, one in the National League—Chris Sale of the Red Sox and Noah Syndergaard of the Mets—recently underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in 2020. So far, neither one has been missed, due to the lack of baseball-related to the Coronavirus. If there is a baseball season in 2020, these two won’t return until sometime in 2021.
What I Learned from Writing this Novel
After writing this novel, I have heard from people all over the United States and Canada. I’ve talked to Montreal Expos fans who are working hard to try to bring baseball back to their city. In fact, several ran a bowling fundraising event in Cooperstown two years ago, when former Expo Vladimir Guerrero was being inducted into the Hall of Fame. They invited me to bring a few of my friends to bowl with them as they raised money for Montreal’s Children’s Hospital cancer unit.
The event included several former Expos, including Bill Lee (who makes a cameo appearance in my novel, because he also was a member of the Red Sox), Claude Raymond, and Curtis Pride. My friends and I were on Curtis Pride’s team, and we had a great time trying to bowl. I hadn’t been bowling since I’d had my knee replaced in 2016, but it was a fun night.
I learned that Curtis was the first totally deaf baseball player to make it to MLB. He’s now the baseball coach at Gallaudet College in Washington, DC, which caters specifically to deaf students. He said his team includes several students who might be draft-able. Curtis is an amazing person who reads lips and converses with everyone.
Claude Raymond was once a pitcher for the Expos, but then he became one of their broadcasters. He and the other broadcasters had to come up with French words that would translate into terms such as “double play,” “home run,” and more. Claude is in his eighties, but no one would know it by meeting him in person.
My son and I were supposed to attend Expos Fest this year on March 21. This event was canceled due to the arrival of the Coronavirus, but perhaps it will be re-scheduled. Expos Fest is also a fundraiser for Montreal Children’s Hospital’s cancer unit.
I also learned, from making the rounds to bookstores and libraries, that people don’t expect a woman to know much about baseball. When they realize that I do, they view my book in a different light. I tell them about how I had wanted to become a sportswriter in the 1960s but that opportunities for women back then were limited. It took 40-plus years then retirement for me to have the time and energy to write this novel.
I was a public relations/marketing/media relations professional for 40 years. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be publicizing my own work, writing my own blog posts and twitter feeds, telling people at any opportunity about my novel. It’s a delicate balance when it comes down to promoting oneself. Given my past experience, I believe I could promote someone else much better than I promote myself.
I have had a few promotional successes. I sent a note to my alumni magazine (Northeastern University) and received several inquiries from there. I appeared on the national show, “Only a Game,” talking about my original career path that was sidelined (https://www.wbur.org/onlyagame/2018/08/10/wanda-fischer-red-sox-advice-sportswriting) and I did another radio interview on the radio station where I do my folk music show, WAMC. I did a segment focusing on women on a local TV station. Local newspapers were also quite kind in their coverage, and I was on the receiving end of what I’d set up for years for my employers.
The first one is my “broadcast” attempt with Red Sox Mascot Wally.
The second one shows my grandchildren in the “field” during practice at Winter Weekend.
Every day I look for ways to introduce people to my three characters—Jimmy, Bobby, and Bud. Now I’m working on a sequel to Empty Seats, mainly because people have asked for it. “What happens to these guys?” one emailer wanted to know. “I was just getting to know them when the novel ended.”
In my mind, I always knew what happened to them. I had planned to write a novel about the three of them when they were in their sixties and may still do that at some point. However, the sequel in the process is set in 1976, and, as one reader told me, I “have some ‘splaining to do.”
What Little Leaguer doesn’t dream of walking from the dugout onto a Major League baseball field, facing his long-time idol and striking his out? Empty Seats follows three different minor-league baseball pitchers as they follow their dreams to climb the ladder from minor- to major-league ball while facing challenges along the way—not always on the baseball diamond. This coming-of-age novel takes on success and failure in unexpected ways. One reviewer calls this book “a tragic version of ‘The Sandlot.’”
(Winner of the 2019 New Apple Award and 2019 Independent Publishing Award)
Following a successful 40-year career in public relations/marketing/media relations, Wanda Adams Fischer parlayed her love for baseball into her first novel, Empty Seats. She began writing poetry and short stories when she was in the second grade in her hometown of Weymouth, Massachusetts, and has continued to write for more than six decades. In addition to her “day” job, she has been a folk music DJ on public radio for more than 40 years, including more than 37 at WAMC-FM, the Albany, New York-based National Public Radio affiliate. In 2019, Folk Alliance International inducted her into their Folk D-J Hall of Fame. A singer/songwriter in her own right, she’s produced one CD, “Singing Along with the Radio.” She’s also a competitive tennis player and has captained several United States Tennis Association senior teams that have secured berths at sectional and national events. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Northeastern University in Boston. She lives in Schenectady, NY, with her husband of 47 years, Bill, a retired family physician, whom she met at a coffeehouse in Boston in 1966; they have two grown children and six grandchildren.
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