Team Player: For Astros PR guy Steve Grande, winning is good
by Ben Gleisser
For Astros PR guy Steve Grande, winning is good
It was Nov. 2, 2017. The geysers of champagne had been sprayed around the visiting team locker room at Dodger Stadium, and most of the celebrating Houston Astros players had left for the hotel. Steve Grande (B.S. ’06), senior manager of communications for the team, held the Commissioner’s Trophy and fully realized, "My team just won the World Series!"
"Oh, man, I was so nervous during Game 7," Grande says, relaxing in his Houston office at Minute Maid Park. "In the fourth inning we were ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it was still hard to watch." Houston won 5-1 to clinch its first World Series Championship.
"Then in the clubhouse, champagne was going everywhere, but I was concentrating on my job, lining players up for local and national TV interviews," he adds. "Later, when three or four players were in the locker room, one guy handed me the trophy and at that moment, it hit me. There’s a picture of me smiling so big. I had a minute with the World Series trophy all to myself. It wasn’t like I did anything to earn it, but it still was important to me."
While he isn’t on the field chasing fly balls to center or throwing strikes to opposing batters, Grande‘s behind-the-scene efforts are dedicated to the Astros’ popular standing in baseball. He is a part of a four-person team in communications. In addition to his media relations duties, he also helps arrange player visits in the community and is the media coordinator for Shriners Hospital for Children charity events. The Astros Foundation partners with Shriners Hospital for events such as the College Classic held in March at Minute Maid Park.
Grande graduated from Texas State with a major in public relations and mass communication and a minor in business administration. He split the 2007 baseball season as an intern between two teams before landing a fulltime job in 2008 as public relations manager with the Astros.
When he joined the team, they were suffering through some dismal years, including three 100+ loss seasons from 2011- 13. It is during those difficult times, Grande notes, when a public relations official really has to step up his game.
"Boy, it was tough," Grande says. "When people got down on us, I’d just tell them we’re going young, making major investments in developing minor league players, and better times are ahead. I pushed that so hard. I remember a friend of mine once said to me, ‘How can you defend this product going on the field?’ I’d read comments on Twitter and in social media that really hurt my heart."
Grande sighs, then smiles. "Now, I finally feel vindicated."
Though it was a challenge to convince fans to keep the faith, Grande credits his public relations classes at Texas State with helping him formulate positive strategies. In fact, the university was where he found his first job break. "I had no clue what I wanted to do, and no idea sports PR existed in college," he says. "I was walking through the Quad one day and saw a job posting for a media relations internship with San Antonio Spurs. I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s a dream job! I want that internship!’"
His professors helped him polish his résumé and though Grande didn’t get the job, he persisted. Prior to interning in baseball, he landed internships with two PR companies.
The World Series victory is especially sweet to Grande, who grew up in Houston. However, the Astros weren’t always his favorite team. "My dad was a big Minnesota Twins fan, and I remember watching the Twins on TV with him," he says. "I was 5 years old at the time. My grandparents sent a box of Twins caps and Twins towels, and I fell in love with baseball."
He switched allegiances when he began playing second base and outfield in Little League. His hero was Craig Biggio, the Astros’ second baseman and future Hall of Famer. Every summer Grande went with his dad to games at the Astrodome. The team left the park in 1999. "I was at the last game played at the Dome, and I remember walking out of there thinking, ‘What’s next?’ "
Grande and his wife, Ginny, are parents to James — born in April. One thing he is looking forward to is sharing his love of baseball with his son, like the signed baseball from former Astros pitcher and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. "I’m not one for keepsakes," Grande says. "But when my son gets older, I’d like to give him that and hear him say, ‘Wow! You have Nolan Ryan’s autograph!’ "