Alyson Footer: Walking in the Footsteps of Anita Martini

added 6/22/2007 by James Anderson

It wasn't that long ago when female sports beat writers were looked upon by their male counterparts in the same light as the carriers of the Spanish Flu that devastated the lives of millions of Americans shortly after World War I.

But, that was then and this is now. Of course, one has to wonder had Anita Martini not pioneered the way for the ladies to get into the sports profession would it still be that way today. Even Fox Sports Net Executive Patti Smith credits Ms. Martini for opening the doors that allowed Patti to get into the sports reporting profession. We all remember the stories of Ms. Martini having to sit outside of the press room at the Astrodome to wait and get her stories because women weren't allowed in the press room after the games.

Alyson Footer
Those of us who have been around the game long enough to remember how it was back "in those days" wondered if there would ever be another to come along and impact the local Houston sports scene as Anita had done back in the 1960's and 70's. I'm not saying that someone could come along to fill her shoes because that's virtually impossible based upon the walls of prejudice that Anita had to overcome virtually on her own.

But, it has become clear that someone finally made the local Houston sports scene that has built a unique reputation of her own that would make Anita proud and that person goes by the name of Alyson Footer.

Alyson Footer is a sports columnist for covering our local lovables the Astros on a daily basis. That sounds pretty easy, but among her responsibilities as the beat-writer for the team she also fields a weekly question-and-answer column with the local Astros fans that would likely try the patience of Job from time to time in my opinion.

Beginning with the 2007 season Alyson expanded her duties chairing a weekly TV show during spring training titled "Astros Spring Training Report" interviewing Astros ballplayers and then she free-lanced from time to time to co-hosting the Astros pre- and post-game show on FSN with "All-Texas Sports Venue" broadcast legend Greg Lucas. Since covering the Astros for for years and now Fox Sports Net, Alyson Footer has become a household name among the local fans even rivaling that of the legendary Anita Martini.

Sometimes, there is a point in time that seems to punctuate a person's career that catapults them to a status of fame and sometimes, as in the case of the Cubs fan Steve Bartman that historical point in time can catapult one to the status of infamy.

In the case of Alyson Footer, I think her "point in time" came several weeks after the Astros had just secured the talents of two of the Yankees best starting pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.

As Spring Training in Florida was just beginning to make noise around the Grapefruit League, The Sporting News published their annual column from local beat writers on how each local writer graded their respective teams pitching staffs, offense etc. When the readers finally came to Alyson Footer's contribution to the forecast, local Astros fans and the Astros themselves nearly fell off their collective chairs when Ms. Footer gave the Astros pitching staff a grade of "C" based on what she expected from the current Astros staff that season.

The screams likely could be heard on high as for north as Mt. McKinley - how could this "person" grade any pitching staff with just a grade of "C" that included both Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte on that staff? This person had to be tracked down and tracked down quickly to see what grievious illness was afflicting this person that would cause her to utter such blaphemous words! It took a person with very thick skin and a tremendous sense of humor to have been able to ride out the waves of that storm even though there was a very logical answer to the entire story.

Taking it all in stride, Ms. Footer explained that the article had been written months prior to the acquisition of the two star pitchers and the Sporting News didn't get around to releasing Alyson's commentary on the Astros pitching staff until months later after the Astros had already signed both Clemens and Pettitte. In fact, Alyson had sent the "Sporting News" updates to the column after learning of the acquistions of Clemens and Pettitte but for some reason they forgot to adjust the "C" grade for the Astros pitching staff and Alyson was left twisting in the wind when the column was eventually published by "The Sporting News". It might have been her "Day of Infamy" as it were but from that day on just about everyone on the local Houston sports scene immediately began to find out who Alyson Footer was!

And, although it was pretty much all down hill after that, as Alyson noted with her usual wit - "That copy of SN is in every clubhouse in the league and it's going to be a lot of fun trying to live that one down!" Doggedly, from that inauspicious episode, Ms. Footer, from that time forward became a mainstay and respected voice of Astros baseball.

There was a time when Alyson couldn't find Houston, Texas on the map although she was familiar with the Astros ballclub and "The Killer Bees" since she had been working for the Indians organization. Unlike Anita Martini who was born and raised in Galveston, Texas just a few short miles from Houston, Alyson was from Dayton, Ohio. How Alyson came to Houston, is such a great story, I'll simply let her convey it in her own words;

"It's kind of a funny story...I was working for the Double A Cleveland Indians in 1996, and one boring day (one of many) I looked for web sites for all 30 Major League teams. At that time, only about 10 teams had web sites. The Astros were one of them. I was just kind of surfing through and saw "click here for job opportunites." I clicked, saw a job opening for a Director of Marketing position. That wasn't my area of interest, since I was going the media relations route, but I said, what the heck and sent my resume in.

"I then went to San Diego for two weeks to hang out with my old college roommates, called my answering machine while I was there and there was a message, "Hi, this is Pam Gardner from the Houston Astros..." Talked to Pam, who said, "we have another job opening too, which I think you might be interested in." she put me on the phone with Rob Matwick, who had a job open in his department, coordinator of publications. That's exactly what I wanted to do, so we arranged for me to fly in to Houston for a day to interview. I spent the day at the Dome, went to the JW Marriott at the end of the day, called my parents and said, "It went well, I'm only 25, I know I'm not going to get this job but it was great experience to interview." Six days later, Rob called and offered me the job, and one week after that, my mom and I drove 19 hours to Houston (stopping in Hope, Ark. for the night). I didn't even know where Houston was in Texas. My mom had to look it up in the encylopedia and told me, "it's two-thirds down the right side (of the map)." I had no intentions of staying in Ohio. Had the Tigers had a job opening I would have gone there. Or Boston or New York or Seattle or wherever.

"I actually did know (about) – Bagwell and Biggio, of course! I remember right before I flew down to interview for the job, my dad said, 'I think they’ve got something down there where they call them the Killer B’s – Bagwell, Biggio and a couple of other guys.' I was so nervous for the interview I said, 'you know, I really don’t want to talk about this!'”

"The first time I sat outside (in Houston) reading a book in 75 degree temps in November, I really felt I had won the lottery and I can honestly say barring any unforeseen disaster I will never live in the cold weather again! The story isn't as long. I was working for the Astros, looking for a new challenge, and Rob told me he had to fill two jobs as site editors for the new undertaking. It was perfect -- didn't have to leave Houston, didn't have to leave the Astros beat, and got to do something new and different. Win-win for everyone!"

Now, all of us Texans with the big Texas egos please don't take Alyson to task because she and her mom didn't know where Houston, Texas was even though many of us born-and-raised Texans seem to think that Houston IS the center of the universe! Not being a native Texan, Alyson will tell you in her usual humorous tone , "I’m not from Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!" Indeed she did!

All kidding aside, that was truly a great story and as someone once said - timing is everything! And the timing was certainly right for Alyson Footer to make her impact on the Houston sports scene. Ms. Footer was also instrumental in donating her time and talents in columns about legendary Astros broadcaster Gene Elston that helped to put his name in Cooperstown. She also helped to promote the local annual Texas Baseball Hall of Fame Banquet when making it's tedious move from North Texas to Houston. She's become a loyal annual attendee of the banquet helping to give it legitimacy within the local Houston sports scene.

Alyson Footer has covered the Astros for since 2001. Prior to beginning her current position with the Astros, she served as the Astros' Assistant Director of Media Relations and Coordinator of Publications for four years. She began her baseball career as the Director of Advertising and Publications for the Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians in Canton, Ohio. She received both her Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree in Journalism from the University of Cincinnati where she also spent two years as a graduate assistant for the Sports Information Department. That's where the groundwork was laid for Alyson Footer's superb journalistic talents and now in Houston where she blossomed as one of the top sports personalities in the area.

Thank you Alyson for coming to the great state of Texas and sharing your talented journalistic and sports skills with us all. There is no doubt that Anita Martini would be very proud.