Dusty's advice for 'Shaq': 'Continue to push forward'

Astros senior staff member heeds advice of many as a Black professional in baseball

February 24th, 2023
Meshach Sullivan is in his fifth season with the Astros and his first as the senior coordinator of communications.

To the Astros, he is affectionately known as Shaq. No, he is not a basketball player or related to the NBA legend, Shaquille O’Neal; The Shaq from Houston is Meshach Sullivan, and he works in the Astros media relations department. He is in his fifth season with the organization, but in his first as the senior coordinator of communications.

And he’s doing this with the team he grew up rooting for. 

“It’s more like a dream come true,” Sullivan, 27, said. “I’ve been to many Astros games before I worked for the team. I definitely had Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Craig Biggio jerseys growing up. In fact, I still have the Bagwell jersey.”

Sullivan does a lot for the Astros. Besides contributing to the day-to-day media relations responsibilities, he oversees media credentials, prepares the press box for every home game, writes content for the Astros media guide and contributes to the club’s Gameday magazine.

During the postseason last year, Sullivan was plenty busy. He handled dozens of interview requests, many of which were for Jeremy Peña, the Most Valuable Player of both the AL Championship Series and World Series.

When he travels with the Astros during the regular season, Sullivan also handles all media appearances pertaining to manager Dusty Baker. The two have grown close during Baker’s time with the club, and Sullivan appreciates a lot of the advice Baker has passed along to him.

It was Baker who told Sullivan to be himself even though there aren’t many African Americans in the front office or on the field. Sullivan has heeded Baker’s advice.

“[Baker] said, ‘Continue to push forward no matter the obstacles you face,’” Sullivan remembered.

Dusty Baker is among the many mentors who have passed along valuable advice on the industry to Sullivan.

Baker affectionally calls Sullivan “Shaqtus,” a reference to a Shaquille O’Neal commercial.

“They had a cactus out there, and they called it Shaqtus,” Baker said. “[Sullivan] is from Texas. I have a special affiliation with him because we are both Black, but I like him because he knows when to talk and when not to talk. That’s an art right there. He does a lot of stuff for me and [Astros vice president of communications] Gene Dias.”

Astros radio announcer Robert Ford commended Sullivan for the mark he has made for himself with the club.

“Shaq has impressed everybody with his work ethic, which is outstanding,” Ford said. “You don’t have to tell him twice. He figures things out. He is willing to work.

“There might be some things he had to learn -- growing pains and all that. You knew that he was going to figure it out, and he was going to work to the best that he could at that job.”

Sullivan was raised by his mother, Teryana Lamb, a former chemistry teacher. She was a stickler for good grades and felt anything below a B was unacceptable. His grandfather, Frederick Lamb, also played a huge role in Sullivan's life. Known to be a quiet man, Lamb wanted his grandson to have a work ethic. He instilled those values early, starting with tasking his grandson with cutting the grass every week.

What was the biggest advice Sullivan received during his formative years? It came from Teryana, who told her son, “Do what you love to do when you are working.”

Working for the Astros has been “a dream come true” for Sullivan, who grew up rooting for the team.

At first, Sullivan thought he was going to be a journalist. While attending Texas Southern University, Sullivan was an intern at the Houston Forward Times and received a scholarship from the National Newspaper Publishers Association (Black Press of America).

Sullivan didn’t know much about public relations during his time at TSU, but he was given an opportunity by Dias to spend a day with the organization and get more of a feel for what Dias and his staff did on a regular basis. Sullivan loved what he saw from the PR side of things.

A year after graduating from TSU, Sullivan was covering a basketball game for the Galveston Daily News when Dias called him and offered him an internship with the Astros. Sullivan accepted the job. After the internship ended following the 2018 season, Sullivan became a full-time high school sports reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise. 

After six months on the job, Sullivan received a call from Dias and was told there was an opening for the coordinator of communications. Sullivan interviewed, received the job and has been with the Astros ever since.

He said he is having the time of his life with the Astros.

“I’m not sure where I would be if I didn’t listen to that advice [from my mother],” Sullivan said. “That’s one of the main things that I always go back to, making sure that I continue to do what I love, because you don’t want to go to a job every day that you hate. At the end of the day, this is your life, and you want to have an enjoyable life. Being around the game of baseball has been a joy for me.”