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In 1972, they were stars in their hometowns. Then they were drafted to play minor league baseball, thinking it would be an easy ride to the big time. Little did they know they'd be vying for a spot with every other talented kid who aspired to play professional baseball. Young, inexperienced, immature, far away from home, and without the support of their families and friends, they're often faced with making split-second decisions. Not always on the baseball diamond.
Here's a link to an interview I did with Joe Donahue on WAMC:
Three minor league pitchers contend with fate in this debut novel.
Growing up outside Boston under the shadow of his father’s unrealized major league baseball dreams, Jimmy Bailey wishes to succeed where his dad could not. That’s why he’s willing to board with a strange family in Jamestown, New York, in the early 1970s. He isn’t the only pitcher there to play ball for a Single-A affiliate of the Montreal Expos. There’s also Bobby Mangino, a hotheaded New Yorker with some father issues of his own to work out, and Bud Prescott, an aw-shucks optimist from Athens, Georgia. The three young athletes must contend with their nerves, ambitions, and abilities to throw fastballs as they spend the summer competing to move forward toward their dreams of the big leagues. “We’re all in the same boat: all-stars in our high schools, Babe Ruth and Connie Mack ball,” narrates Jimmy. “People at home knew who we are. Here, we are essentially nothing but three passengers jammed into the back seat of a Dodge station wagon—until we can prove otherwise.” They must face the expected obstacles. But the unforeseen tragedies (bodily, legal, and otherwise) will remind them that once they leave the field, they still have to compete in the most important game of all: the rest of their lives. Fischer adeptly—and often lyrically—captures the mindset of her characters, both their love of their sport and the things that they’ve given up to pursue it: “There’s nothing better than the smell that fills every corner, every inch, of a ballpark on a sunny spring day....The aroma makes me feel high. I bet it’s like sniffing cocaine or drinking too much tequila. But I’ve never done that. I’ve only gotten high on baseball.” The author wrings genuine emotions from the tale, making sure that readers know what’s at stake for these young men. This is perhaps why some shocking third act developments feel histrionic and unnecessary. Even so, Fischer manages to clearly communicate her ultimate message: that baseball holds more humiliation than it does glory, and far more losers than winners.
While it eventually turns melodramatic, this tale offers an appealingly honest portrayal of aspirant baseball players.
From Tim Davis, Professional Writer and Baseball Aficionado
Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of good writing, or maybe because I’m a baseball junkie, but Empty Seats by Wanda Adams Fisher was a real home run for me. It could also be that I grew up in Geneva NY, site of an entry in Empty Seats, and that I was a fan of my hometown Geneva Senators, one of the opponents of Wanda’s “fantasy” minor league baseball team. I actually played a few high school and Babe Ruth games on that very field! Wanda got it exactly right. I could smell the fresh cut grass and hear my metal spikes tapping on the dugout steps.
Empty Seats is a storytelling gem. I felt like I knew all three of her main characters – in fact I could have been anyone of them back in my baseball days. What’s the saying … “There but for the grace of God …. ?”
A great read from the top of the first to the last game of the season. Jimmy, Bud and Bobby come to life in this great tale that’s about more than coming of age … it’s about coming to the plate, and who doesn’t want to have that chance? Let’s play 2!
Link to the Blog of Benjamin Hill of MinorLeagueBaseball.com:
Wanda Adams Fischer has loved baseball since she was eight years old. She's parlayed that into her first novel, which is not necessarily about her favorite team, the Boston Red Sox. She retired from a nearly 40-year career in public relations/marketing/media relations for not-for-profit and governmental organization in 2014 and stays busy by writing and volunteering to read to first graders. She's also been a folk music disc jockey, hosting an producing "The Hudson River Sampler" for WAMC-FM/Northeast Public Radio, the Albany, NY-based National Public Radio Affiliate, since 1982. She's a singer/songwriter and produced a CD, "Singing Along with the Radio," several years ago. She lives with her husband of nearly 45 years, Bill Fischer. They have two grown children and four grandchildren.
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