Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball: A Dream Journey

Alyson Footer/Twitter
Alyson Footer/Twitter

Wednesday marks the first day of summer in the US, and what's more summery than baseball? Alyson Footer is the Houston Astros senior director of social media. Like so many people, Alyson's dream journey has not been what she originally envisioned. Yet somehow, when she looks at the big picture, she is where she wanted to be all long.

Dreaming Made Simple: How was becoming the Astros Sr. Director of Social Media a dream come true for you?

Alyson Footer: I wouldn’t categorize any particular job I’ve had as a dream come true. Instead, I’d say just working in Major League Baseball was the dream that came true. That’s what I wanted to do since I can remember, and the fact that I was given the opportunity is something I’ll forever be grateful for.

Dreaming Made Simple: What was the process to achieve your dream?

Alyson Footer: I had to start at the bottom, like everyone. I worked as a grad assistant in the Sports Information Office at the University of Cincinnati and then went to the Winter Meetings to try to get a job in baseball. I worked for the Double-A Cleveland Indians in Canton, OH for poverty wages. In between grad school and the baseball job, I stayed on as an intern in the Sports Information Department for a little longer and made, I think, $500 a month. And they didn’t always find it a priority to get me the checks on time.

All of this was worth it to get to Houston.

Dreaming Made Simple: What lessons have you learned along the way?

Alyson Footer: That if you work hard and show you care, you’re going to go a long way. I’ve also learned it takes very little effort to extend help to a coworker or kindness to a fan.

Dreaming Made Simple: In your current capacity you have said you are no longer a news writer.  Your job is "to give a behind-the-scenes, fly-on-the-wall perspective."  What does that mean, and how do you do it?  How do you compliment the beat reporter and go beyond existing coverage to provide unique access to your readers?  

Alyson Footer: I’ve tried to stay away from hard news because, if our MLB.com writer is covering news for Astros.com and I’m blogging about the same thing, also on Astros.com, it’s counterproductive. Someone’s time is being wasted. Instead, I try to provide insight, commentary and my own perspective on what’s already out there. I also have access that no one else does in terms of behind the scenes goings on, and I try to bring as much of that to the fans as possible. Baseball is a visual game, and the players are the product. I try to bring the fans closer to them and humanize the team as much as possible. It makes fans feel like they are a part of the process, which they most definitely are.

Dreaming Made Simple: How did you cultivate a relationship of trust with the organization and players so that you could have this access? 

Mainly by spending eight years at MLB.com covering them in a fair, objective yet truthful manner. When I took the Social Media job, they told me, "Just do what you’ve been doing. Be fair, be accurate, but don’t gloss things over when there’s nothing to gloss. Tell it like it is." So far, it’s worked out well.

The players know that I’ve been around a long time, and they also know they can trust me. So access isn’t an issue, thankfully. I respect them for the job they have, and they respect mine.

Dreaming Made Simple: Then, just for fun - in addition to being a journalist, you are a hair model ("Best Curls 2010.")  What’s the best hair tip you can give the rest of us?

Alyson Footer: Condition, condition, condition!

Sports Career Advice with Art Berke

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Art Berke is a sports career consultant and communications consultant. His work experience includes Major League Baseball, ABC Sports, Sports Illustrated and the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center among other employers. Currently he is the Managing Partner at Diamond Sports Careers.

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your dream?

Art Berke: My goal, my dream was to work in sports. I was able to do that throughout my career. When I retired from Sports Illustrated after about 20 years in 2007, I was thinking about what I wanted to do. One of the things I wanted to do was give back to students who had the same aspirations as I had. I’ve always felt it was important to spend time with young people who just needed an encouraging word, a referral or some level of hope.

SDB: What is it about Diamond Sports Careers that makes you come alive?

Art Berke: It’s the reward you get from seeing the light bulb go on in someone’s head. It’s when you work with someone and have tried to help them along the way, then they land a job. It’s really the reward you get from helping these students realize their goals. A lot of them have nowhere else to turn and they need help. Everybody needs nurturing and everybody needs mentorship.

The role of being a mentor is important to me because I’m someone who really didn’t have any connections.

SDB: How did you go from having "no connections" to being involved in so many different facets of the sports industry?

Art Berke: When I wrote my first small story for the high school newspaper, I said, "This is what I want to do. It’s combining my passion with making a living." I wanted to be a sportswriter. I went to Indiana University, majored in journalism and was the editor of the college paper. As time went on, I had a couple of editorial jobs, one with a weekly football newspaper, the other with an encyclopedia company where I developed a sports encyclopedia for kids. At that point, I felt like my talents were more in line with the public relations/promotions end.

I think what turned everything around is that I made the decision to go the extra mile and attend a seminar that a minor league baseball executive, Dick King, was putting on in Cleveland. I was living in Columbus at the time. I drove up there and spent money I didn’t have. I came back and didn’t think anything more of it. Six months later, I got a call from Major League Baseball. They were looking for an assistant pr director and said that Dick King from the seminar had given them my name. The bottom line is that if I had not taken advantage of that weekend, I never would have made the connection and I never would have started with Major League Baseball. I was there for five years, I worked for ABC Sports for eight years, and I was at SI for almost 20.

SDB: What are some obstacles you have faced?

Art Berke: If a young person would look at my resume, he would think that it was an absolute easy road. However, there were a lot of bumps in the road in terms of measuring up and competing and working at the highest level. You had to work hard, you had to work smart, and you had to keep getting better and better.

SDB: What are some lessons you have learned to get over those bumps in the road?

Art Berke:It’s a cliché, but you need to show up. When I was at ABC, I worked with Howard Cosell on a magazine show he was doing. That was a difficult situation because of who he was and everything. When I left to take another job, I went in to talk with him and he was very complimentary. The one thing he said was, "You were always there. You were always there to help, and you were always there when I needed you." A lot of people take that for granted.

The fact is, I look at myself as someone who isn’t exceptionally talented at anything. I think I’m good at a lot of things. The one thing that I think I am perhaps better at than others is that I am always available. It doesn’t matter what time it is. If I’m needed, I am there. Some people think they work hard but they really don’t. They really don’t understand what real work ethic is. Working hard is very important, as is taking advantage of opportunities.

SDB: What’s next?

Art Berke: I want to continue doing projects I enjoy, and I want to continue working with young people.

Check out Diamond Sports Careers for great sports career advice to take another huge step toward your dream!