Although many know Wanda Adams Fischer for her radio voice and her music, Fischer’s latest venture is silent.
“Empty Seats,” Fischer’s first novel, which was published in 2017, is all about her first passion: baseball. Growing up in Weymouth, Massachusetts, it was a strange sport for her to be passionate about. No one in her family cared about the sport, even though they lived not too far from Fenway Park.
“We got our first TV in 1955 and I saw one baseball game and I thought ‘Well, this is fun,’” said Fischer, a longtime Schenectady resident now living in Guilderland. She started listening to the games on the radio and picked up on the scoring system as well as the players.
When she was in high school, she would go out to Fenway Park to watch games with the few girlfriends she could round up who liked the sport.
“There were not very many girls who liked baseball at the time,” Fischer said. Back then, there weren’t very many people going to the games (maybe a thousand or two thousand), but often the place felt empty. So Fischer and her friends could wander around and they ended up meeting players like Harmon Killebrew or Al Kaline and Curt Gowdy (who showed her how to score a baseball game).
“I wanted to be a sports writer,” Fischer said. But that changed when she ran into Rick Reichardt, the centerfielder for the Los Angeles/California Angels, on her way home from a game. She told him about her goal and his advice changed her life.
“He stopped me and he said, ‘You seem like a really nice girl. You have to develop a thick skin because I want you to know that the guys don’t want women in the locker rooms and they don’t want them in the clubhouse and they will give you a very hard time,” Fischer said.
As frustrating as it was to hear, Fischer is thankful for the advice and after the two corresponded via letter a few times, she decided to go into a different field; radio journalism and marketing. Even though she’s retired from marketing and public relations, she still hosts “The Hudson River Sampler,” on WAMC.
“[Reichardt] saved me from making a very bad career mistake. I think if I hadn’t, I would have lost my love for baseball,” Fischer said.
Over the years, that love has only gotten stronger.
She’s had the opportunity to work with local baseball teams, announced a Red Sox game, and sing the National Anthem at a ValleyCats game, which was the impetus for “Empty Seats.”
“[I watched] these young guys who are living with families they don’t know, they’re far away from home, they don’t have their support system, and yet they’re fighting for their baseball lives,” Fischer said, “They all looked so lost until they got onto the field.”
“Empty Seats,” follows three minor league baseball players as they try to make their way to the major leagues. When the players arrive at their minor league team in upstate New York, they think it’ll be an easy shot to the major leagues. But it turns out it’s not so easy, as every other player vies for the same spots.
The story is set in 1972 before it became so easy to contact family and ask for guidance and they face quite a few challenges not only on the field but off.
“There are all kinds of things that you don’t expect,” Fischer said, “but that’s what makes good fiction.”
The main characters -- Jimmy Bailey, Cameron Prescott, and Bobby Mangino -- are brought together by a tragedy and they have to learn to live with it on and off the field. After the first season, Jimmy goes back home feeling lost without his team, while his parents pressure him to get a job, he starts drinking. Cameron is set on going to college but has his own problems there. Bobby, who Fischer describes as a gruff character, has to learn to lead a life he never thought he’d have to live.
“Empty Seats,” is as much about baseball as it is about life off the field, Fischer said, as the characters have to learn when to tough things out and when to quit, when to go after their dreams and when to get new ones.
“I hope people understand how difficult it is for young people to make it in the world. It’s not just about baseball. It’s about expectations,” Fischer said, “I also hope that people realize that if they have a dream and they don’t ‘make it’ they’re not failures.”
She’s currently working on a sequel to it which takes place 41 years later. “Empty Seats,” is available at the Open Door Bookstore and on Amazon.
Over the next few weeks, Fischer will be visiting the following local libraries and bookstores for talks and book signings:
Local baseball author event
When: 7 - 8:45 p.m. Wed. Mar. 28
Where: Guilderland Public Library
More info: guilderlandlibrary.org
When: 1 - 2:30 p.m. Sat. Apr. 7
Where: Open Door Bookstore and Gift Gallery
More info: opendoor-bookstore.com
When: 7 p.m. Fri. Apr. 13
Where: Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs
More info: northshire.com