Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.
I almost never watch baseball.
And yet, I was intrigued by Stacey May Fowles’ collection of essays about her love for the game. Baseball Life Advice: Loving the Game That Saved Me isn’t a book “about” baseball; it’s a book about loving something that better helps to understand yourself.
Fowles has always loved baseball but in 2011, baseball came to mean something more to her. Having recently been diagnosed with PTSD, years after a sexual assault, she needed baseball in a way she hadn’t before. The baseball season became a way to organize her days, to help her do her therapy, to get back out into the world and find herself again.
Fowles later made the decision to leave the security (and stress) of her full-time magazine marketing job and write about the game she loves. These essays allow her to ruminate on certain aspects of the game and the relationship she has with it. She talks about bat-flipping, about the politics of booing, bandwagon fans, and injuries.
I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to relate to this collection that much – my knowledge and understanding of baseball can best be termed ‘basic’.
But then I read the essay titled “Watching Like a Girl”. And then I found myself nodding along. She talks about the stereotypes of female fans, the assumption that you are at a game because your partner likes the sport, the availability of pink, sparkly team gear, how you are quizzed on your sports knowledge to test if you are really a fan.
In talking about a piece that actively looked to spotlight the stereotypes of female fans, she writes:
…it reinforces the antagonistic attitude many male fans have about women being in “their” ballpark – as if a bunch of girls chatting about wedding plans instead of paying attention to the action is more off-putting than “real fans” yelling homophobic slurs and harassing people around them. It points to an ingrained belief that women don’t belong, which is exacerbated by an appalling gender imbalance in terms of who is “allowed” to talk publicly about “Dad’s game.”
Fowles is honest and open about some of the struggles she has been through and calls out her beloved sport for not being as inclusive as they should be. Baseball Life Advice is more about the emotional connection fans have to a game and I found the angle refreshing and so very interesting. It made me kind of wish that I had that kind of love for a game, that maybe I need to give baseball another chance.