Does Julia Morales Have the World’s Best Job?
Everyone has A DREAM JOB fantaSY. If you’re a diehard Astros fan, aside from actually playing for the World Series champs, that job might include sitting in the dugout and chatting with the players and coaches. Maybe you’d travel with the team, visit other ballparks around the country, and get front row seats to all the action. And, if your team is really good, like the Astros have been for the past few years, you’d get to celebrate alongside them as they win multiple championships. Oh, and since we’re fantasizing, let’s throw in an Emmy win or three for good measure. Well, sorry to break it to you, but someone has your dream job. Her name is Julia Morales. And before you ask, no, she’s not going anywhere for a while.
We sat down with the very busy Morales this offseason to talk about her already considerable list of career achievements, what it’s like behind the scenes with the Astros, her new fashion venture Baseball Y’all, and her advice to other young women trying to break into the male dominated world of sports reporting.
HOUSTONIA: You’ve been a sports reporter for more than 10 years now. When did your love or interest for sports begin?
JULIA MORALES: I kind of wanted to be on TV since I was a little kid. As a female, I had the opportunity to do sports reporting and quickly fell in love with that idea. I worked really hard to do that. My first job interviews, I was going for a sports reporter role at a particular news station and ended up getting a job in Sherman, Texas as the weekend sports anchor and it took off from there.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, could you explain your journey leading to your first job in the field?
I was studying journalism and sports journalism and I started to talk to people in the industry. I knew it was going to be extremely competitive to get my foot in the door, so I prepared myself mentally for that. Once I graduated I put together my reel, did a couple different internships that were sports related. I spent a lot of time at a local TV station in Austin trying to follow the sports crew around and learn and get in front of the camera as much as I could. After graduation, I moved back home so I could focus on just applying for jobs. I went to a few job interviews, got told “no” a couple of times, but I think that process was good for me. I learned how to handle an interview and how to answer these questions that were coming my way. And then I got that first “yes.”
As a native Texan, how did the opportunity to work with the Astros come about? And what was your reaction like when you landed what seems like a dream job?
It is the ultimate dream job. I started working with an agent and I was really looking to make that next jump into regional sports at the network level. I was in Austin at the time as a sports reporter for a 24-hour cable channel. I was the main reporter on Minor League Baseball for the Round Rock Express. There was so much knowledge that I gathered from my time working in the minors that would eventually put me in a good position to get a job in the majors. CSM Houston was looking for someone who would travel with the Astros all season long, be the prominent field reporter and they hadn’t really had that position before. This reporter would do 150 games or so. I was told “yes” while I was actually at Spring Training covering the Round Rock Express. I just burst into tears and could not wait to move to Houston and get started.
You’ve been a part of the Astros organization for two World Series wins. Are you and the rest of the beat reporters as emotionally involved as regular fans? If so, can you explain the emotions that go on behind the scenes following losses and big wins?
When you invest as much time as the reporters who cover the beat, it’s hard not to get emotionally invested. I will say that, maybe more so than some of the other reporters, I find myself rooting for the club and that’s because of my role as a team reporter. I am allowed to let myself feel really good when the team wins and then also be disappointed when things don’t go their way. I root for them, I root for their families, and I root for their stories. So when good things happen like World Series Championships and winning the Pennant, those were all incredibly big accomplishments not just for the organization and the city of Houston but for these guys, coaches, parents, families, and everyone who helped them get there.
You’re a three-time Emmy winner as the host of the show Astros Bases Loaded. How did it feel to win your first Emmy?
Emmys are the coolest thing ever. Winning the first one was almost surreal. It was always hard to believe because when you start out in this career you hear about people winning Emmys and then for your name to be called is wild. I was pretty floored by that first one. We want to tell good stories and there’s so many people that go into that. The phone calls start bright and early with my producer, so you just think about all that you put in and who put in with you to do the work. To win an Emmy is extremely cool and gratifying.”
The MLB season is a long one, spanning from early February with Spring training through October if your team makes the playoffs. How has your process been balancing work, life, and your family?
I’m still trying to figure out how to balance it all. The most important thing for me to do is be honest with everyone and tell them that I don’t have it all figured out and I’m constantly making adjustments in my life with work and trying to figure out what works best for me and best for my family. I went into this business knowing that it was going to be hard, that I was going to have to make sacrifices. I think things that are worth it do come with sacrifices and this industry is no different. I pushed really hard and tried to get where I wanted to be in my career before I thought about starting a family. If I had advice for the next generation I would say: do what you want to do when it comes to your life. Life is short.
How would you describe your relationship with Astros fans?
It is hard to actually put into words the relationship with the fan base. It’s a big reason why I’m still here a decade later. It’s an industry where you tend to bounce around but when I moved to Houston I quickly fell in love with the city. As the team got better, the fans became more supportive and filled the ballpark and I feed off that energy on a nightly basis. I found it to be very important to interact with fans on social media early on and try to get a feel for what stories they were looking for. I love Houston, all of the fans and the sports community that is here. It’s so historic. It’s so strong and they’re my family outside of my family and I hope it continues to grow.
You recently ventured into the world of fashion. Could you tell us more about the idea behind Baseball, y’all?
The more I talked to women in the sport, I learned that there’s so many people out there who love the game of baseball. And of course they love their Astros but they also love the team their son plays on, the high school baseball team their family supports, Aggies or Cougars baseball, etc. I found myself kind of wanting to do something for all baseball fans, mostly targeting women, across the state of Texas and beyond. It was even harder than I realized, and launching it in September when the team was on a roll might not have been the best idea ever. But it was also so much fun seeing the support from the fan base. It’s a project that I hope keeps growing. I have so many ideas and I can’t wait for my spring styles to launch very soon for the new season.
Navigating a career in a male-dominated industry, did you face any obstacles that might have deterred you?
I kind of went into it not even thinking about it. I knew it was going to be a bunch of men. I walked up to my first football practice holding a camera, knowing that I was the only woman around and that I was alone. I went in head first and had confidence and wanted to gain respect so I prepped really hard. Of course there were times when a man may have treated me differently than he would have treated another man. I just made sure to not let it bring me down or knock me back. I just kept going. It is really cool to know that I can look around now and there’s a lot of females doing it.
Do you have advice for other young women aspiring to work in sports?
This is a very small world so you just don’t know what opportunities are going to end up coming around because you’ve met someone or you’ve had a conversation. Just be prepared for the job and the work. No matter if it’s a sport you know a lot about, or something you’re covering for the first time, you should come in with the same preparedness every single day. Learn as much as you can, be versatile and it’ll definitely put you on the path to success.
What is next for you? Do you see yourself working in Houston sports for years to come or are there other ventures you’re looking into?
I am extremely happy here and I have been happy the entire time that I've been around the Astros organization. I tell people I want to grow out not up at this point. I want to do more in the community, find myself helping more with the Astros Foundation rather than finding the next gig because I’ve found my dream job and I don’t want to let that go anytime soon. I’m having a blast doing it, so for as long as they’ll have me I’ll be here.
Who is the funniest Astro in your opinion?
Everything about Michael Brantley cracks me up. He’s a tough cookie to crack and it’s my goal every interview to try to get him to smile. He has one liners and looks that will make you laugh. Him and Kyle Tucker together, they’re their own act. Never a dull moment with Chaz McCormick with the things that come out of his mouth on a daily basis. It's hilarious. He’s just got a swagger and he can be silly sometimes. I’d have to say the group of Framber Valdez, Christian Javier, Luis Garcia, and Jose Urquidy, make me laugh everyday. They mess with each other and they’re goofy. It’s infectious and it makes you smile and you want to be a part of their group. They are some of my favorites to be around.