Media staff veterans mark over two decades with the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics
By Clifford T. Argue
While Major League Baseball may be a man’s sport on the field, two Greek-American women have played a major role with their respective teams especially in the area of media relations.
Chris Stathos (Stathopoulos) worked for 27 years for the Kansas City Royals and retired in 2006 as Manager – Broadcast and Media Services. Her responsibilities included coordinating media credentials, working with the Royals Alumni, organizing and running the annual Fantasy Camp at Spring Training, handling All-Star George Brett’s media and fan requests, assisting with administrative functions for the Royals radio and TV networks, and producing the annual media guides.
Stathos, nee Asimakopoulos, whose family came from Kalavrita in the Peloponessos, was born and grew up in St. Louis and graduated from Washington University there with a degree in Education. She met her husband George at a wedding, and they have a son, Michael, and a grandson, Christopher. She is active in the Annunciation Church in Kansas City, MO, in the Philoptochos and helping with the parish bookstore.
She learned of an opening in the Royals organization, applied, and was hired in October 1979 as a secretary in the Public Relations department. She will always remember her first day on the job which was a baptism by fire as that was the day the Royals fired their popular manager Whitey Herzog.
“The phones rang constantly all day long with mostly very irate callers yelling and screaming,” Stathos noted. “At that point, I wondered what I had gotten myself into.” But things settled down afterwards, and she enjoyed a long tenure with progressively more responsible positions.
In 2004, Stathos started the annual Royals Fantasy Camp, just before the start of Spring Training in Surprise, AZ. The camp allows men and women, 30 and older, to indulge their fantasy of playing baseball in the major leagues for a week with team alumni as their coaches. The participants get two sets of actual uniforms, work out and play games every day, and enjoy various social events in the evenings.
The program run by Stathos became a model for the rest of baseball, so much so that the Baseball Hall of Fame sent a representative to Surprise to follow Stathos around during the week to “see how it is done.”
Although retired for ten years, Spring Training is still an important part of life for Chris and George who return to Arizona every March to watch some games and bask in the sunshine.
In reflecting on her time with the Royals, Stathos said that meeting and working with so many great people, the players, the media, and others on and off the field was very satisfying. And while the team going to the playoffs and World Series were great times, her most memorable event was being at Cooperstown, NY when George Brett was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Asked what she would recommend to a young person wanting to work for professional baseball, Stathos advised, “Have a strong love of the game, and be committed. It is a long season, 162 games, plus Spring Training.”
In an article in the Royals “Game Day” magazine just prior to Stahos’ retirement, David Witty, Vice President of communications and Marketing for the team stated “Her loyalty is unmatched. Chris is someone that everyone in this organization could turn to when they needed help with a project. She is a tremendous friend to our players and alumni. Whenever you needed a helpful smile, Chris was the one person you could count on.”
Holding a similar position for the past 20 years with the Oakland Athletics is Debbie Gallas (Xynogalas). She is Media Services Manager.
Gallas was born in Los Angeles to a Greek father and Romanian mother. Her father emigrated in 1930 from Alexandria, Egypt, which for centuries had a large Greek population. She went to Long Beach State earning a degree in Physical Education with plans to teach, but ended up in the media relations aspect of sports. Her first position was at Stanford University in the Sports Information Office.
“Along the way, I had two children, Kristine and Richard, and now am yiayia to two grandchildren, Charlotte and Carson,” Gallas stated.
After ten years at Stanford, she started with the Athletics in 1997. She said it was an easy transition because of the many contacts she already had among Bay Area sports reporters.
“The big difference was at Stanford, I was handling some 35 different sports teams, while in Oakland it is just one team and one sport,” Gallas observed.
With the A’s, one of her major responsibilities comes well before the first game and even Spring Training begin. She processes season credential requests from all types of media, print, radio, TV, and electronic, usually around 550 individuals. Gallas also handles individual game requests during the season.
“On a day to day basis, you have to be able to respond and handle whatever challenge comes through the door,” Gallas noted. “It sometimes is like an ER at a hospital where you need to focus on the most urgent matter first.”
In addition, Gallas produces a daily collection of news links about the A’s, manages the team’s email list, oversees the photo archives, updates league office publications, and helps with the media guide.
For young people who aspire to a job like hers, she recommends taking journalism courses in high school and college to give them good writing skills, and having a good customer service ethic.
“It is all about building strong relationships.”
Gallas looks back fondly at great performances of the A’s including six American League West Division titles, and the celebrations that followed.
As a sideline, Gallas creates baseball wall hangings one of which is currently part of an exhibit “Safe at Home” in the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, CA through June 12.
Next time you read a newspaper or magazine story, or watch/listen to a sports report or live broadcast of a baseball game, remember the work behind-the-scenes by those who helped the media get the information and access to write or broadcast for you – team Media staff people like Chris Stathos and Debbie Gallas.
Email the author: The Hellenic Journal