Alyson Footer does not needs much introduction among Astro fans. If there were a voice you would associate with the Astros it would probably be Alyson's. That voice has provided Astro fans with a behind the scenes look at the organization as well as an honest level headed analysis point of view from someone within the organization. When she's not blogging about the Houston Astros on Alyson's Footnotes -- one of the top blogs on mlb.com -- she's usually interacting with fans on twitter. She's the best in the business and Astro fans are lucky to have her representing the Astros.
Alyson was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for us regarding some of the changes going on within the organization.
The Crawfish Boxes: On an Astroline you touched on the impact Pam Garner had on you in her time with the Astros. Would you mind going into a little more detail about what she's meant to you professionally and personally?
Alyson Footer: Pam was the initial person who contacted me when I blindly sent in my resume for a job I saw on the Astros’ very primitive web site in 1996. She probably doesn’t remember this, but I applied for a job I wasn’t qualified for at the time. I think it was Director of Advertising. I was working for the Double-A Cleveland Indians at the time. We chatted for a bit and then she put me on the phone with the PR director, who also had a job opening in his department that they had not yet advertised. It was perfect for me – Coordinator of Publications – and exactly what I had been trained to do during my time with the University of Cincinnati Sports Information Department. Within two weeks, I was packing up my life and driving 19 hours to Houston to begin my career with the Astros. It was wonderful and exciting and I owe it to Pam, who made that initial call and got things rolling.
The one lasting image I’ll have of Pam, one that I will never, ever forget, is from the night before the new ballpark opened in 2000. She wasn’t yet president, but she was pretty much Drayton McLane’s right-hand person in a very senior position. And there she was, a 9 at night, with a towel in her hand, wiping down a few railings in the stands that were still dusty from the construction. She had poured her heart and soul into that ballpark for nearly three years, spending a minimum of 12 hours a day, every day, overseeing its construction. We tabbed it as the Astros’ “sparkling” new ballpark, and darn it, that place was going to sparkle, if she had anything to do with it. It showed how much she truly cared about that place and how perfect she wanted things to go on Opening Day. And that on one is too important or busy to do what it takes to make things right.
more answers to our questions from Alyson Footer after the jump...
TCB: Where does Pam Gardner keep the candy in her desk?
Footer: I don’t think Pam had any candy in her desk, but our top two administrative executives, Eileen and Tracy, have quite the stash. I’ve been known to run up there when I need a quick fix.
TCB: We've heard about the changes on the baseball operations side of the organization. What kind of turnover has there been in other departments like Public Relations and Marketing, if any?
Footer: Not much turnover at this point. A couple of business-side folks have left on their own, but for the most part the staff is intact.
TCB: What's it been like for you going through these changes with the Astros organization and have you been given more freedom, more restrictions or has everything kind of stayed the same?
Footer:Pretty much the same. I haven’t had any conversations about restrictions. They know what I do and they’ve let me do it the same as I always have. The only difference is our new GM, Jeff Luhnow, is extremely Social Media-savvy and likes Twitter. So I have an ally on that front, which is new.
TCB: There seems to be a lot more fan interaction this offseason particularly with the online chats hosted on Astros.com. Is this something that's been in the works for a while or a change made by the new people in charge?
Footer: It’s always something we’ve tried to be consistent with, but there has been a push lately to be as interactive as possible during the offseason. We’ve done chats in the past, I think that these are getting more attention because of the ownership change and the new additions on the baseball side.
TCB: How busy has this offseason compared to previous offseasons, you've been with the Astros?
Footer: Busiest ever, no doubt. We’re always pretty swamped in January but this one has been particularly intense. All in a good way – we’re in a getting-to-know-you phase and we’re coming up lots of new ideas to implement this year and in future years. We’re currently laying the groundwork for a plan that we think will be a good one for a long time.
TCB: What are you going to miss the most about the National League and what are you looking forward to, switching to the American League?
Footer: To be honest, the things I’ll miss are more personal than anything. I enjoy the three trips to Wrigley, and not going to that ballpark regularly is really going to leave a void. I am from near Cincinnati and my parents are still there, so having two to three trips home every year was a luxury that I will no longer have. Most of what I will miss has to do with road trips. I am not a fan of the DH, so I will miss watching pitchers hit, I suppose.
In terms of looking forward to the AL, it’ll be fun to have new teams come to Minute Maid Park. Other than that, baseball’s baseball and who we’re playing will not be as important as who we’re beating, if that makes sense. The only thing I care about at this point is the Astros getting to the point where they are contending every year. If they win, it won’t matter what league we’re in.
TCB: How soon do you think the Astros will be competing again?
Footer: It’s really hard to tell. 2012 is going to be a transition year and then who knows. I’d like to think by 2014 things will be rolling along as planned. ’13 could be interesting in that lots of money is coming off the books this year and TV money will start coming in next year. So there might be some ways to improve the team before ’13 starts. Hard to tell right now.
TCB: What player or players are you looking forward to watching this year?
Footer: Altuve, Lyles, Bogusevic, Lowrie. I’m also going to keep my eye on Jarred Cosart – he seems like the next big thing on the horizon.
TCB: Thank you for your time Alyson.