Stacey May Fowles literally wrote the book on Toronto Blue Jays fandom. Her book, Baseball Life Advice, is a Globe and Mail bestseller, and collects essays from Fowles’ popular newsletter of the same name. She writes about how the Blue Jays have impacted her life, and the valuable lessons baseball can teach us about life and ourselves.
With a weekend series against the Jays looming, we talked to Fowles about her favorite team, how the Jays have floundered this year, and asked her advice on dealing with a baseball broken heart.
BYB: You’re obviously an enormous Jays fan, and this has been a tough season for them, especially after the highs of 2016. What would you say has been the biggest highlight of this season?
SMF: I’m not huge on predictions, but at the beginning of the season I had three I was willing to throw out there. The first two, that Marcus Stroman and Jose Bautusta were going to have great seasons, were largely based on what we saw in the World Baseball Classic, and I suppose I turned out to be half right. Stroman has been incredible to watch pretty much all season long, a real pleasure, a fun character, and just an all round incredible baseball player—the kind you really want to have as one of your guys. (Because I’m a big fan of quirky baseball magic, I’ve also very much enjoyed his batting average.)
My third prediction—that Justin Smoak would be this season’s star—was one of those lighthearted things you say off the cuff, but it turned out to be oddly spot on. (I have a witness if anyone needs me to prove I said it.) There has certainly been many a great moment in this dire season, and the upside to our onslaught of injuries has been seeing some lesser known players shine, but likely my favoutire story of 2017 is how Justin Smoak became an unassuming MLB home run king.
Who is the Jays’ unsung hero?
Jason Grilli really struggled this season, but in a classic case of not knowing what you’ve got until it’s gone, I find I really miss his dynamic, exuberant personality. (Grilli was traded to the Rangers in July.) Players come and go, but if you took the general temperature of the Jays fanbase at the time of his departure you would have found that one really hurt despite his stats. When Grilli was good he was flat out electric and explosive, just a complete joy to behold, without any of those pesky concerns about concealing emotions or “playing the game the right way.” It turns out he was also quietly, privately an absolute gem of a teammate. I know the wheel of baseball keeps on turning, but his nice guy/bright side high energy would have been pretty handy to have around when things started to get really dark.
Injuries have played a big part in the Jays’ troubles this year, how worried are you about guys like Devon Travis and the on-and-off-the-DL pitching staff in the long term?
To be honest, injuries tend to feel like a big part of everyone’s troubles every year, so it’s hard to get caught up in the idea that we’re somehow uniquely doomed in the long term. Last year, the Jays benefitted from a rare pretty healthy season overall, which might be why 2017 felt like a particularly jarring never ending parade of blisters, busted calves, and bad knees. So no, I suppose I’m not worried, but I do accept that injury is part of the sometimes (often) cruel love affair we have with this game.
Are there any young up-and-comers for the team who seem exciting?
One nice thing that came out of this season is that fans have been looking more and more to the long term future in a positive way, which means their eyes have been on prospects like Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr. To my knowledge there hasn’t been a season in recent memory where there’s been more interest, positive buzz, or broad fan attention around this kind of up and coming young talent. Regardless of how poorly a season is progressing, people still crave their feel good baseball stories, and for a lot of people the Dunedin Blue Jays gracefully filled the gap. (It certainly helped that they adopted an orphaned crow and had a colouring book club.)
How likely do you think the Jays are to re-sign Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista in the offseason?
I want so desperately to pass on this question, if only because I want to finish the season in detached bliss, enjoy some final baseball games while the weather is still nice, and not concern myself with (or despair over) where all the beloved pieces of this team will be going. If you forced me to answer, I would say Donaldson will stay and Bautista will go, but now you’ve made me uncomfortable and upset. Good job, Ashley.
The Tigers find themselves in a very similar boat to the Jays right now, and fans are disheartened. You tend to find the best outlook in even the worst baseball. What Baseball Life Advice do you have for Detroit’s heartbroken fanbase right now?
Miraculously, I’ve managed to reach a point of acceptance, and even, dare I say it, gratitude. It took me a while to get there, but I acknowledge that we were lucky enough to have two incredible playoff runs in a row, the nature of this game is times of feast and times of famine, and right now it’s just not our turn. I have actually found some solace in the fact that September and October are going to be all kinds of complete and total gripping dramatic baseball chaos, and over here with the non-contenders we can just watch and enjoy without plummeting into a pit of painful sports anxiety. For the first time in two years I will be able to have a fall social life, complete my household chores in a timely manner, and get a reasonable amount of sleep. I mean, small comfort to be sure, but there is so much more exciting baseball to be had in what’s left of this season, and I plan to relish in it all despite my disappointments.
Thanks so much to Stacey for taking the time to chat with us. Follow her on Twitter @MissStaceyMay and subscribe to her newsletter. Considering picking up her book, as well, because it’s a genuinely beautiful read for anyone who loves baseball.