About six hours before game time, Julia Morales, the Houston Astros on-field reporter, arrives at Minute Maid Park for a unique and exciting day on the job.
Morales typically has a busy workday at the ballpark, and I followed her around during one such day in July before the Astros hosted the Texas Rangers.
While traveling with the Astros, she gives fans a look at the team they otherwise wouldn’t see. She goes behind the scenes in ballparks all over the country, captures an interesting frame of the game and its players, and familiarizes supporters on information crucial to the team’s success. Morales conducts interviews and attends press conferences, updates fans during games, and also covers the Astros outside of game time.
Morales wanted to be a reporter since she was 10, when her dad ran for U.S. Senate in Texas. He was a serious contender, and received a lot of media attention. During this time, Julia got a first-hand look at the world of journalism. She witnessed interviews, and she was even in some herself. She was fascinated by reporters, live shots, and the process in general.
At the University of Texas, Morales studied broadcast journalism. From there she worked at a TV station in Sherman, Texas, where she was a weekend anchor; she covered high school sports and other events around town during the week. She also worked in Tyler and Austin. Eventually, the Astros on-field reporter position opened up. She got the job and has been in Houston, working for AT&T SportsNet, for six years.
Outside of the ballpark, Morales enjoys running and traveling, works as a sideline reporter for the Houston Rockets, is a member of the Houston Pets Alive board, fosters pets, and is an adventurous eater. She loves discovering new local restaurants in the offseason and is “down to try any type of food.” She has tried everything from fried crickets at Safeco Field in Seattle to burnt-end butter cheese biscuits at Minute Maid Park.
Her favorite parts of the job are meeting new people, traveling, and the fact that she never knows what to expect from a game.
“There are things that I don’t even get to share that I see everyday that are really cool,” she said. “Relationships grow between players that I’ll just be able to watch...because I’m with the team so much.”
Before it’s time for the first pitch, Morales will do some studying. She reviews recent news in the sports world and the teams’ previous games, and analyzes matchups she’ll see in the upcoming game.
This is what a typical day on the job looks like for Julia Morales.
Six Hours to Game Time
Morales arrives at the venue and begins prepping.
Four Hours to Game Time
Sometimes, Morales will film a brief video for upcoming Astros coverage. For example, when I shadowed her, she filmed a bit with the bat boy detailing the different equipment players use when on deck.
Three-and-a-half Hours to Game Time
When the clubhouse opens, she conducts interviews with several players. They talk of the upcoming game.
Three Hours to Game Time
This is about when manager A.J. Hinch meets with the media in the dugout to answer questions and give updates, mainly regarding the players and the approaching game. Pitcher Ryan Pressly, who had just been traded from the Twins, was a main focus of the media the night I was there. Hinch mentioned that he wanted to get Pressly in the game and oriented with the team’s culture as soon as possible, and he pitched an inning that game.
Hinch is an entertaining and friendly person, so these sessions tend to be lively. Everything from football analogies to old band references come up. About eight minutes into the discussion, the 10 or so members of the press all suddenly clicked off their recording devices and cameras. I learned that this was the transition between on-the-record and off-the-record material. On-the-record quotes or information can be recorded and used by the media. Things said during the off-the-record part of the discussion aren’t recorded and cannot be quoted by members of the press.
Two Hours to Game Time
Morales checks in with her producer on what the show is going to look like for the day, logs sound from recently recorded interviews, and prepares for the game.
Thirty Minutes to Game Time
Morales does a pregame live shot on the field. She talks about Astros players, stats, and history. Viewers at home may see charts comparing past to current players when Morales talks about team records, or a specific player’s stats if she is speaking of him. When there is a new player, such as Pressly, she’ll talk about his first day, details of the trade, and how he is adapting.
During the Game
Morales does live hits on events going on around the ballpark. She interviews fans, tries new stadium eats, and fills in everyone at home about the day’s ballpark happenings.
Immediately After the Game
If the Astros win, Morales conducts an on-field interview that appears on the AT&T SportsNet Postgame Show.
Fifteen Minutes After the Game
Morales goes to a press conference with Hinch and conducts interviews with players in the clubhouse. The press conference I went to was particularly gloomy, due to a loss to the Rangers and second baseman José Altuve being placed on the DL.
This was a very cool day in which I learned just how hectic the life of an on-field reporter is. Julia Morales has an exciting job, filled with the fun and unpredictability that comes with a job covering the Houston Astros.
Back in October, following a clutch performance by pitcher Justin Verlander in an ALCS playoff game against the Yankees, Altuve told a Fox reporter, “I literally love Justin Verlander.” After the next game, Verlander responded, “I literally love you too, José Altuve.”
Knowing Astros fans, it’s not surprising to see a few sporting “I literally love Julia Morales” shirts when you walk into Minute Maid Park. Julia loves to see kids wearing these shirts. “It does mean a lot that these kids look up to me, and want to get shirts made,” she said. “The kid that I saw wearing one the other day was so cute it just touched my heart.”