Bill Chastain has what most sports fans would call a dream job. He’s spent most of his adult life covering sports stories for publications like the St. Petersburg Times, SPORT Magazine, and the Tampa Tribune. Currently, he covers the Tampa Bay Rays for MLB.com, an online site dedicated to major league baseball. Each year, he gets to spend spring and summer with the team. For Chastain, a lifelong baseball fan, it’s a dream come true.
Chastain played a lot of baseball while growing up in South Tampa. When he wasn’t playing, he was reading about sports. He fell in love with writers like Sports Illustrated’s Frank Deford, a man Chastain calls his hero. While attending Georgia Tech, Chastain enrolled in a course titled “Sports in Literature.” “I had to write three columns a week,” he explains, “and this planted the seed. “ After graduating with a business degree, Chastain continued writing. He began submitting articles to smaller publications, gradually working up to some of the heavier hitters. At the end of six years, he had an impressive portfolio of clips, so he decided to apply for a job at the Tampa Tribune. He spent 12 years there working as a columnist and sports reporter. He even spent some time as a correspondent for Sports Illustrated like his hero, Frank Deford.
During this same period, Chastain started writing books. His first, The Streak, is a novel about a baseball player trying to rebuild his life. Chastain then switched to non-fiction with The Steve Spurrier Story. This was followed by Purpose and Passion, the authorized biography of Bobby Pruett, coach of Marshall University’s championship football team. Chastain followed this with seven more non-fiction sports books. His latest, Hack’s 191, tells the story of prohibition-era Chicago Cubs slugger Hack Wilson, a man whose season record 191 RBIs still stands today. The book gives readers a fascinating glimpse into the life of a player whose hard-hitting batting style mirrored his hard-drinking lifestyle.
Despite Chastain’s success in journalism and non-fiction, his favorite work is a novel. Set in 1977, Peachtree Corvette Club is the coming-of-age story of Truman Forbes, an introspective Georgia Tech engineering student who emerges from a broken romance determined to try life on the wild side. Led by Bone, his thrill-seeking friend and fraternity brother, Truman embarks on a journey where he is free to enjoy the privileges of adulthood without the responsibilities or constraints. Chastain enjoyed writing this story that brought back memories of his “Pink Floyd college era.” He admits that his protagonist is “a little piece of me and a composite of others” whose exploits are based on the college stories Chastain amassed during his days at Georgia Tech.
Chastain’s next book will be the sequel to Peachtree Corvette Club. Toys and Games will follow Truman Forbes into his adult life as a sportswriter. The title comes from the nickname given to a newspaper’s sports department. “It’s funny how many people wish they were sportswriters,” Chastain says. “I want to take people into that bizarre world with its weirdo characters.”
The thing Chastain likes best about his dream job is the creative process. “I’m not a tortured writer,” he says. “I enjoy spending time with my characters. And there’s nothing like waking up the in the morning and reading something you wrote the day before that you really like; something that will entertain readers and make them want to turn the page.”
For more about Bill Chastain, visit his website at www.billchastain.com
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