"The sky was gray and the air crisp. It was close to 1 p.m. on a Sunday in late October and the temperature hadn’t made it out of the 40s all day. On the Metro platform, my kids stood and waited with me as the wet wind whistled past."

To read Chris Duggan's essay, "Still Life in Gray" please check out our Spring & Summer 2011 Issue (and turn to page 35)! Today Chris answers some questions for us.

Stymie: You essay reflects on a weekend in 2005 and the loss of a loved baseball stadium. How have the memories you discuss in the essay played out against the experience of the new Cardinals stadium?

Chris: Actually, I love the new stadium. The essay was all about this time of inexorable change for me, and everything that was happening then was wrapped up in the destruction of that place that had meant so much to me throughout my life. Going to ballgames in the new place and making new memories there with my kids, my friends, and my loved ones has been analogous the larger process of moving on and starting over, and it’s been great. What I came to realize is that in the midst of those big changes, the most important things are still with me. My daughter, who is a talented singer, has sung the National Anthem with two different groups at the new park; as memories go, you can’t get much better than that. My kids, my girlfriend and I saw Yadier Molina win an exra-innings game with a clutch base hit on his own bobblehead night. The Cardinals winning the World Series in their first year at new Busch didn’t hurt either.

Stymie: Do you have favorite sports writers (fiction or nonfiction)? Who are the
writers you turn to for inspiration?

Chris: I don’t think you can beat a good baseball story, because it is so easy to see baseball as a metaphor for life. My favorite baseball book is “The Greatest Slump of All Time,” by St. Louis writer David Carkeet, whose short story writing class I took at UMSL in 1985. It’s about a fictitious World Series-bound baseball team whose members are dealing with all manners of emotional issues. It has a great collection of characters, it is funny and touching, and it really takes the reader inside the game.

My all-time favorite writer is Ernest Hemingway, and I love the stories of Anne Tyler. Since last fall, I have been working toward my MFA in writing at Lindenwood University, and I can honestly say the writers that inspire me the most right now are my classmates. The fact is there are great writers walking next to us on the sidewalk every day.

Stymie: What are the baseball traditions you hope to pass on to your kids? (Always buy a hotdog? Never leave before the final inning?)

Both those things, of course. I see people leaving a ballgame with the score tied in the bottom of the eighth inning, and I wonder, “Why did you even come?” The other thing I try to impress on my kids is that you’re either a fan of your team or you’re not. That means you don’t boo your own players, even if your closer just blew his fourth save in five tries, and in St. Louis, we don’t throw the ball back on the field when the other team hits a home run. That’s a Cubs thing. It’s easy to be a fan of the Cardinals, because the organization’s heritage is so rich with players, like Stan Musial and Lou Brock, who play the game the right way. You can teach your kids about respecting your opponents and the game itself when the players model that behavior, and the Cards players have always done that for the most part. It would be more difficult explaining to them the antics of someone like Brandon Phillips.

Stymie: What are you working on or writing now?

Chris: Most of my creative writing these days is connected to my MFA coursework. Currently, I am in a cluster of flash fiction classes taught by Lindenwood’s MFA program director, Beth Mead. I had not done very much of that previously, and it has been a blast. I also have a novel about a guy who works as an artist in a greeting card company. Once I’m done with the MFA program, I’ll pick that up again give it one more revision.

Chris Duggan has worked since 1989 as a newspaper journalist and public relations professional, in that order. He is currently public relations coordinator at Lindenwood University, where he is also pursuing an MFA in writing. He lives in St. Charles with his two kids and exorcises the demons of a frustrated little league career by playing vintage baseball in the warm weather months (old-style uniforms, 1860 rules, and no gloves).