Episode 140 — Andy Littleton: Heartbreak, Hope, & Healing Through Baseball

Andy Littleton grew up in Tucson, Arizona as a fan of the Oakland A’s. Despite being a fan of the Athletics as a kid, Andy now cheers for the Chicago Cubs – a change spurred by a poignant and personal story of loss and remembrance. Andy opens up about losing his best friend Sam, a massive Cubs fan, in a tragic accident, how baseball has played a crucial role in his grieving process, and the touching way Andy plans to honor Sam’s memory through their shared love for baseball.

Andy also recounts an entrepreneurial ticket scheme from his past, reminisces about the Tucson Toros, and discusses how he found his way back to baseball during challenging times.

This episode is an emotional rollercoaster that beautifully illustrates the power of sports in healing and remembering those we’ve lost. It’s a story of friendship, loss, hope, and the unbreakable bonds forged through the love of the game.

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Read the full transcript

[00:00:00] Andy: how do I bring up memory?

[00:00:01] Andy: How do I go back in and grieve that in a healthy way? And so the pandemic, you know, slowed us all down, uh, to some degree. And for me, that was a, that was a thing that in the slowdown, I thought about a little bit. Um, I had thought about it before, but I thought about it some more. And I had the thought one day, I was like, you know, one of the things that in my life just used to bring me joy, a fun thing that maybe I’ve lost is baseball.

[00:00:26] Andy: , but also I want to continue to remember Sam and remember him well. And so I, uh, I just made a conscious decision one day. I was sitting out on my porch and it’s like. I am now a Chicago Cubs fan. that is what I am. And I am going to listen to Chicago Cubs baseball on the radio, 

[00:00:43] Anna: What’s up bucketheads?. Thanks for tuning in and welcome to episode number 140 of the baseball bucket list podcast. I’m your host Anna DiTommaso. And each week on the show, I speak with a different baseball fan about their favorite memories what’s left on their baseball bucket list and what the game of baseball means to them. This week, I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Andy Littleton from Tucson, Arizona. Despite growing up in Oakland A’s fan Andy now cheers for the Chicago Cubs. And there is a deeply moving story behind that shift in allegiance. 

[00:01:12] Anna: Andy’s best friend Sam was a devoted Cubs fan and the two had fond memories of growing up together with ball games on the radio as the background of their childhood. Tragically Sam and his fiance were killed in a car accident while driving home to Tucson for their wedding in which Andy was set to be the best man.

[00:01:29] Anna: Andy and I talk about how baseball has helped his grieving process and about an incredible way he plans to honor Sam through the sport. We also discuss an entrepreneurial ticket scheme Andy used to run as a kid, how beloved the Tucson Toros were and the subtle ways he started finding his way back to the game. 

[00:01:46] Anna: Now as a warning, this episode is quite emotional. And so if you’re currently in a public place, You may want to save this for a later listen. It’s an incredible story about friendship, loss, and hope with baseball woven throughout. And while it’s obviously very sad. It’s also incredibly inspiring and beautiful. I’m so grateful that Andy decided to share it with all of us. So now without further ado, sit back, relax and enjoy some baseball banter with Andy Littleton.

[00:02:13] Anna: Andy, thank you so much for joining us today on the Baseball Bucket List.

[00:02:17] Anna: How are things out in beautiful Tucson?

[00:02:20] Andy: Well, today is a rare, rainy, cloudy day in beautiful Tucson, but, uh, here it is. The middle of winter for folks and yesterday was about 76 degrees and, uh, just amazing, which is why spring training starts up in, uh, in Phoenix nearby very soon. And everybody wants to be around here this time of year.

[00:02:41] Anna: Yeah, it’s the place to be. That’s for sure. Either, you know, out, out there or down at the, the Grapefruit League, I think we’ll start to see some people kind of meandering to the warmer climates for some baseball in just a couple of weeks, which is the best news.

[00:02:56] Andy: Absolutely. Yeah. We’re all ready for it. The Superbowl is the beginning of baseball season, right?

[00:03:01] Anna: That’s right.

[00:03:01] Andy: yeah, we’re almost there.

[00:03:03] Anna: Yeah. Well, awesome. Let’s just jump into the story then. You know, the first question I’m going to ask right out of the gate is how is it that you became a fan of the game? 

[00:03:13] Andy: a, that’s a question that is kind of unique in my story because, I don’t really remember how it happened and it definitely wasn’t through my family. So, so many stories seem to start with a family member or something like that. And for me, I would say that I just, uh, lived in the heart of Tucson.

[00:03:31] Andy: And at the time, Tucson was really a baseball town. And I think it still is at its heart. We just don’t happen to have. Uh, any professional baseball of any form here anymore. But when I was a kid, um, we had two different spring training teams. We had a very beloved triple a team, uh, during the rest of the year.

[00:03:51] Andy: And we were just, uh, kind of kind of had this buzz around us in the city. So at some point, childhood friends, uh, and I started to play little league and be interested in that and started to go out to games. And so high Corbett field and Tucson, Arizona was like a second home for me. I was there all the time, uh, they would give away free tickets at circle K and I would, uh, take stacks of those tickets and I would sell them, uh, the free tickets in front of the stadium to earn money to go into the stadium myself and, uh, and do stuff.

[00:04:25] Andy: And people would say, those are the free tickets. And I said, great, you can go to circle K, you know, or you can give me seven bucks. And, uh, so this little entrepreneurial activity began in my childhood. At some point I taught my dad how to play catch, uh, and so I taught him how to throw and He was, uh, really amazing because he did a thing that he had no interest in, um, and no, , bent toward in kind of learning about the game with me.

[00:04:53] Andy: So he started to take me to games sometimes and collected some baseball cards, even though it wasn’t his thing at all, just to kind of relate with me. So that was a big deal. Um, but yeah, I had, had friends who played and ended up, went to high school with some dudes who went on to be in the major leagues.

[00:05:09] Andy: So one of my close. Uh, friends when I was a kid was drafted by the Dodgers, I got hurt when he was in the minors. So there was some good talent, uh, sort of around me. And like I said, we were just, uh, me and my friends were at spring training, AAA games all the time. So that’s really where, where baseball came into play.

[00:05:30] Andy: And then I’m one of those, uh, dudes who as a kid, when the strike, uh, the big strike happened and somewhere in there and my priorities were, uh, just changing and I kind of dropped baseball. And I actually came back to it, uh, in 2021, and I decided that I was going to make a change from my childhood allegiance to the Oakland A’s.

[00:05:54] Andy: To, uh, switching allegiance to my best friend growing up steam, the Chicago Cubs. And, um, my best friend died in a pretty tragic accident. And, uh, that, that gets into my bucket list stuff later in the episode. But, um, in memory, a way of kind of stirring up memory for him, I adopted the Chicago Cubs when they were at.

[00:06:16] Andy: About their lowest point, right? When they traded off all their stars and I became a Chicago Cubs and a Frank Schwindel fan. and then, uh, Frank is now playing in Japan. So I, uh, I jumped in at a very interesting time.

[00:06:32] Anna: There’s a lot there. The first thing I’m laughing about here is, uh, you know, you standing outside the ballpark selling free tickets. Just uh, I can see it in my head and I think it’s hilarious. The capitalism at its best there.

[00:06:49] Andy: Oh gosh. Right.

[00:06:51] Anna: I love it though. It’s so, uh, ingenious, you know, a little, uh, creative to, to earn some spare change to buy some sodas and stuff.

[00:06:59] Andy: Well, what I still can’t believe is that the Circle K employees would let me take like 20 tickets off their counter. Um, that, you know, they should have been like, Hey kid, you get one, you know? But I would just take the whole stack and I was just like, yes. Yeah.

[00:07:13] Anna: I love it. That’s awesome. So, I mean, you were growing up in the Tucson area. Obviously the strike kind of hits everybody hard, you know, kind of points out the things that are unlovable about baseball, but just Just four years after that the Arizona Diamondbacks come to the neighboring city of Phoenix And so that wasn’t enough to to get you interested.

[00:07:37] Andy: Well, that’s a unique Tucson story, and I might have a unique angle on it, but I, I was not a fan of the Diamondbacks because in my mind, it was part of why we lost our AAA team. Now, the story is far more complicated than that, but the Tucson Toros were affiliated with the Houston Astros, and there was a need for, there was a desire, at least, for an upgraded spring training facility and things of that nature.

[00:08:01] Andy: But with the Diamondbacks coming to town, Tucson decided to build A new ballpark, uh, out of the outskirts and, um, they, in my mind, they got kind of cheap and uninteresting land and built the new facility out there for the AAA affiliate of the Diamondbacks. And, um, Tucsonans never really embraced the Sidewinders.

[00:08:23] Andy: Uh, the best Sidewinders games were when they dressed up like the Tucson Toros and brought out the Tucson Toros old mascot. And, um, it, it didn’t work and it didn’t last. And now we have two. empty ballparks, uh, in Tucson. And it sort of felt to me like we got on a bandwagon, um, with trying to kind of connect with something that was going on in Phoenix and kind of lost our souls, uh, when it came to baseball.

[00:08:48] Andy: Now, like I said, the, um, the story is far more complicated than that. The simple tweak that I think myself and a lot of other Tucsonans would have said would have been great. Keep the Toros. Let them be the affiliate of the, uh, Of the Diamondbacks, but unfortunately a beloved Tucson establishment was dropped entirely, , to make room for this, this new cool thing.

[00:09:09] Andy: And it wasn’t what Tucsonans wanted. And so Tucsonans are, um, nostalgic and we like quirky things and, um, we, we don’t really want to be Phoenix. And, uh, I think there was a lot in the DNA of that that went askew, unfortunately. So I felt, I honestly had a, I’ve come around to the D backs. In the last five years or so, cause I’m like, this is my, it’s, it’s here in my state.

[00:09:35] Andy: And so they are, they are my number two team and that takes work for me. Uh, and I have to, um, I, I really have to make a sacrifice to say that, but I’ve just, I’ve made a decision, um, in order to love my neighbor, to, you know, embrace Diamondbacks as number two.

[00:09:52] Anna: Yeah, well, it makes sense. I mean, they’re right there. I have a similar feeling, you know I’m obviously a Rays fan first and foremost, but I now live just outside of Arlington and You know if I want to go see a game in the middle of the week and not spend huge amounts of money to get on a plane and fly to Tampa.

[00:10:10] Anna: It’s gonna be the Rangers So yeah, I have a similar 

[00:10:15] Anna: feeling towards them.

[00:10:16] Andy: yeah. And I have, uh, I have very mixed feelings about Chase Field. Um, When the roofs open, I saw your Rangers win the World Series, I was at game five, , and the, uh, or not your Rangers, but your secondary Rangers, and, uh, the roof was open and Chase Field was, was okay. To me with the roof open, that’s very rare.

[00:10:35] Andy: And to me, the diamond level, uh, the second level of Chase field feels like you’re in a hospital or a doctor’s office. And it, I have convulsions when I walk through it. So again, I’m, uh, I’m stretching myself to love Chase field. So I, uh. I have a, I have a thing for the old parks. And, um, so that’s a factor for me too.

[00:10:56] Andy: So I, I’ve been to Globe Life and, uh, I could imagine the, the feelings about the, the old and new park there. But yeah, it’s, it’s nice and it’s done well, but

[00:11:08] Anna: same Yes, exactly. 100 percent well said. I’ve told this story before, but one of my friends, when it was her first trip to Globe Life Field, so the current one, and uh, she goes, she just turns around and looks at me and says, I feel like I’m at an airport. And I was like, that’s exactly the feeling that you get when you’re walking through this place.

[00:11:30] Anna: Yeah,

[00:11:31] Andy: Yes. The best thing about Globe Life is the glass, the glass room with the announcer inside. To me, that was the, that was my favorite part. Yeah.

[00:11:39] Anna: that’s cool. Yeah. Okay, well, I applaud you for, for making an effort to, uh, you know, embrace the D backs. They were a lovable team last year, that’s for sure, and, uh, hopefully they will be moving forward, too. But I want to pivot a little bit.

[00:11:54] Anna: back towards, the story of you kind of finding your way back to baseball in what’s obviously not the best of circumstances, would you feel comfortable kind of sharing that story with us?

[00:12:07] Andy: Yeah. And there are some actually punctuated pieces in the middle. Um, but, but yeah, there, there were probably, there were probably some other factors to one of them would be a reminder as an Oakland A’s fan as a kid. And so the bash brothers can say go McGuire. And so I was all in on who’s they can say go as well.

[00:12:23] Andy: So there’s, you had the strike. But then also not only did Jose Canseco, you know, have a home run bounce off his head and all his other shenanigans with his wife’s Porsche and all that stuff, but he, um, I engaged. So I, because I didn’t just go to spring training games, I went early. I stayed late and I was an autograph hound.

[00:12:42] Andy: I have thousands of autograph cards. And I, so I met a ton of players and great ones because of the intimate atmosphere there. And some of my favorite players. Were some of the biggest disappointments, just unfortunately is how I picked them. So that was a factor too. Um, I had a, , really like quite horrendous, uh, run in with Canseco.

[00:13:03] Andy: Never did give me an autograph and was just kind of being you know, it, maybe I just caught him on a bad day, but it was, it, it wasn’t a memorable one. I’ve had quite a different experience with guys like Tony Gwynn and actually the Cubs before I was even interested in the whole Cubs team in whatever year it was.

[00:13:20] Andy: , you know, signed my ball, chatted with all the kids against the fence, you know, Sandberg, Sosa, uh, Mark Grace. It was awesome. anyway, but the, between kind of my hero falling off his pedestal to me, the strike, it just, I think I just start, you know, it dawned on me as it happens to a lot of kids that like, um, this isn’t just, you know, heroes who love a game.

[00:13:42] Andy: I had watched, my mom worked in a library and I’d watched, uh, Ken Burns. baseball as a kid all the way through multiple times and you know, it dawned on me just how, how different things had become. And I think somewhere in there, it just, it just lost, lost its magic. Right. And, uh, and I think that.

[00:14:01] Andy: That was tough. I, and that happened with a lot of friends I know, like from my, my age range. And then a little, little taste of the magic, um, you know, interject into that. So in like 2004, I moved for a year of school in Chicago and my best friend, Sam said to me, he was like, Hey dude, at this point I’m not following baseball.

[00:14:21] Andy: I still a big piece of my backstory, but I’m not following. And he’s like, dude, you have to go to a game at Wrigley field. You know? And I said. Yeah, yeah, totally. You know, I got to go. And so one day I walked down there, I had a hundred dollars in my pocket because I’d heard tickets were expensive even during the day.

[00:14:36] Andy: And I, I walked up, but this is Oh four, this is pre Ricketts and the improvements and everything. And I walked up to the ticket window and I said, Hey, do you have anything? And they said, we have an obstructed view for 10. I said, 10. I was like, yeah, I’ll take it, you know? And so I’m, I’m behind a pillar or whatever, but.

[00:14:55] Andy: Uh, but I went in for 10, had the best hot dog of my life. The fans all around me were, were cheering. I had the winning ticket. I won a Billy, Billy Williams autographed baseball. Um, and I saw, I believe my first grand slam, even though I’ve gone back to verify this and I can’t tell. If it was a Grand Slam or a three run homer, that was just a pivotal moment in the game.

[00:15:18] Andy: My memory said Grand Slam. Um, so to me, I walked away and it like, the magic came back for, for that day. It was like, whoa, that was, that was the dream. That’s what I saw in Ken Burns. That’s what I experienced at High Corbett. Um, so there were these little punctuated moments that started to kind of like, open up.

[00:15:35] Andy: Like, yeah, I still love that game. Uh, the 2016 World Series with the Cubs, obviously, like, Even though I was still, I hadn’t decided to be a Cubs fan yet, but I got pulled back in and I was going to the Chicago themed bar here in Tucson watching games. And so, yeah, it took, it took time to kind of get back in there for me to feel that magic.

[00:15:57] Andy: I think that’s, that’s what it was. That it was, the magic was lost and it’s kind of reemerged a little bit for me.

[00:16:04] Anna: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense a lot of people have a similar story where you know Especially when you grow up with the game and it’s something that you love as a kid where I mean, it’s I have your Canseco story is like almost identical to my Pudge Rodriguez story, um, you know, just got stiffed for an entire week at spring training.

[00:16:27] Anna: from, you know, everybody else on the team signed for me, but he was like my, my favorite player and just wanted nothing to do with me. And I met him years later and I told him that and he was like, Oh, I’m so sorry. But it’s, uh, it kind of started the process of like falling out of love with the game because of all the things that you just said.

[00:16:47] Anna: And, , Yeah, but I mean, I can understand how there would be pops of, of magic kind of, you know, especially when you’re there in person and experiencing some, some things firsthand. But let’s talk about then this transition from the Oakland A’s to the Cubs. And I know there’s a, there’s a lot behind this.

[00:17:08] Andy: yeah, there is. Yeah. So, um, this might, so Sam, my best friend, uh, growing up was, uh, somebody I met in middle school and he, uh, he had discovered that my mom worked out of school and I had to stay for aftercare at school. And I remember one day he just was like, why do you always stay after school? You know, that’s so dumb.

[00:17:29] Andy: And I was like, well, cause my mom works and he’s like, well, then why don’t you come over to my house? And I was like, I don’t know. I know I could come over to your house. So one of the staples in the, in the Zawada house was that the Chicago Cubs, WGN was just on in the background, but the, uh, the radio was on over the television and this is a tale as old as time I’ve heard.

[00:17:49] Andy: But the, uh, so the, the WGN was on the TV, the radio was on. So you got, we’ve got Harry Carey. We’re like getting into the Pat Hughes era even during this time. So that’s just. background noise at my friend, Sam’s house and his family’s from Chicago. They love the Cubs and the bears. And so, you know, he was always kind of interjecting stuff.

[00:18:07] Andy: So I, because of WGN, and this is again, a Cubs reality, , I saw more Cubs games than any other team as a kid. Um, but they were also very connected to my, my best friend growing up. So I mentioned how I moved to Chicago and he said, you had to go to Wrigley. I went, I called him after, I was like, dude, what in the world?

[00:18:26] Andy: That was awesome. Um, and he’s like, get me a shirt and I’m buying one off the, like, you know, the knockoff guy on the street or whatever for him. And so good memory. , flash forward just a couple of years. Uh, and really tragically, my friend had moved to Colorado where he was following his fiance. And they were getting married back in Tucson.

[00:18:45] Andy: I was the best man. And as they were driving home, uh, from Colorado to down to the wedding, um, so we were going to just about to have the rehearsal and stuff like this. , Valerie fell asleep at the wheel and rolled the vehicle. She died on impact. And my friend was, my friend, Sam was airlifted and died in the hospital.

[00:19:05] Andy: And so in place of their wedding, we had their funeral and it was awful. Uh, it’s just absolutely, absolutely devastating. And so that’s, we’re 16 years, um, since then at this point, and it’s just. Just, you know, one of the biggest losses I just listened to a podcast by David Brooks, where he was talking about people who lose somebody.

[00:19:26] Andy: And he said, it’s like waking up in Montana and the mountains are gone. And that was a really good analogy for me. It was like my best friend, like my, the person I could talk to about anything, just you wake up one day, that’s that whole layer of your life has just gone. And, um, yeah, I didn’t really know how to process that.

[00:19:43] Andy: I didn’t, didn’t really, I just kind of started getting to work and trying to like, You know, make my own moves and tell his friends, other friends was going to be okay. And I didn’t do a great job of like grieving. I didn’t know how. I was pretty young. So that, that happened. Um, and then as, as time went on, you know, I began to plow into that and started asking questions about how do I, how do I bring up memory?

[00:20:08] Andy: How do I go back in and grieve that in a healthy way? And so the pandemic, you know, slowed us all down, uh, to some degree, various degrees. And for me, that was a, that was a thing that in the slowdown, I thought about a little bit. Um, I had thought about it before, but I thought about it some more. And I had the thought one day, I was like, you know, one, one of the things that in my life just used to bring me joy, just kind of a fun, a fun thing that maybe I’ve lost is baseball.

[00:20:36] Andy: Um, but also I want to continue to remember Sam and remember him well. And so I, uh, I just made a conscious decision one day. I was sitting out on my porch and it’s like. I am now a Chicago Cubs fan. , I was just like, that is what I am. And I am going to listen to Chicago Cubs baseball on the radio, , on a regular basis.

[00:20:56] Andy: And I’m going to like reintroduce baseball into my life. So I just started listening to Ron Coomer and Pat Hughes on the radio. That’s my favorite way to take in Cubs games. I listen to as many as I can. I put them in the background when I’m, you know, just doing administrative tasks or driving around.

[00:21:11] Andy: And I, like I said, I started in 2021. So I had all the world series stars are with us for a couple of months and then boom, you know, gone, I had some new people and, uh, and I took, you know, Frank Swindell was on the team. He had this crazy, like second half of the year. And I was like, I like that guy. And he has all these friends that show up at his.

[00:21:30] Andy: At his games, Frank the Tank Army. I’m gonna, I’m gonna be a Frank Schwindel fan. And then, bummer, he got hurt in spring training. I think at a game I was at, actually, uh, he got undercut at first base when he jumped for a ball, landed on his back, had to go out of the game. I think that’s where it fell apart for him.

[00:21:45] Andy: but yeah, but I, I was like, yeah, I’m still in, you know, I’m still in with the Cubs, and I’m gonna, uh, and I also kind of picked up the ballpark chase idea as another, I travel for work, so I thought I could, uh, Start to go and go into some ballparks. And it’s like, all right, I’m a, I’m a baseball guy.

[00:22:00] Andy: Again, I’m a Cubs fan. That’s going to be a way that I connect with my friendship that I lost and also connect with something that just used to bring me joy. So yeah, there you go.

[00:22:11] Anna: Man, that’s, uh, it’s a tough story. Like it really is. It’s, uh, you know, obviously choking me up while, while you’re telling it. And, I think it’s, it’s, it’s pretty inspiring to. You know, hear that you maybe didn’t necessarily Go through that the right way at first and then, you know we’re smart enough to recognize that and kind of try to to backtrack and do something about it and in the process of that kind of find your own way to heal a little bit and connect to not only not only your friend but also the things that You know, you used to find joy and even outside of Sam and But

[00:23:00] Anna: I think it’s uh, it’s just really inspiring like I don’t know It’s just it’s one of those it’s one of those stories that that touches you I think if even if you haven’t lost somebody, you know To hear you tell that story, you have an image of somebody that means the world to you in your own head that you’re kind of going through the, the stages of that story with.

[00:23:25] Anna: So, um, but I love that that’s kind of how you’re honoring him. I think that that’s really cool. I wish the Cubs knew about that. I think, uh, I think they’d 

[00:23:34] Andy: Oh man. 

[00:23:34] Anna: happy about it.

[00:23:37] Andy: Yeah, that’d be, uh, that’d be cool. And I, you know, maybe, maybe someday I get to have a conversation like that. I don’t know. It’s, it’s kind of okay. Either way it goes, um, I think that moving through grief is an exercise in hope. it’s, it’s an exercise in believing that death isn’t the final word.

[00:23:55] Andy: And the, that, that’s the core of it, right? Like that’s, we all go through those journeys. My dad died in 2018 and I went on it again and we all face those questions. And, um, the, the decision to, to hope versus to, um, run from the pain, right? And so that’s, uh, that’s just what I’m working on. I’m trying to, trying to press into that.

[00:24:21] Andy: And, uh, and that’s, you know, what, what kind of opening up those possibilities. So every Cubs game I go to opens up the, the, the story again, right? And, um, and that’s a risk, but it’s, uh, it’s a risk worth taking. It’s being fully alive. It’s choosing to hope, uh, versus believing death’s the final word.

[00:24:41] Anna: yeah. you know, one of the things that we come across a lot on the show is when you ask somebody what their favorite baseball memory is, so much of it is tied back to the moments that surround the game, not necessarily the game itself, you know, whether it’s whoever you’re there with, or, um, you know, what you were doing in your life at that specific time or something like that.

[00:25:03] Anna: And you’ve kind of found a way to it. I mean, that’s obviously still very true in your story, but it’s also true from the opposite perspective, meaning that, you know, you’re looking for the moments of the game to kind of like rekindle those similar types of moments, you know, just give yourself the space to experience that stuff that brought you joy.

[00:25:28] Andy: well, it is. And, and so like, to, you know, there’s various layers of hope there’s, I would say that there’s kind of existential and religious layers to hope that I engage with myself, um, but there’s also hope in the, in this life, in this present time. So something about losing a friend, um, and this doesn’t get talked about a lot, but it, you know, whether it’s a death or just a change in a friendship.

[00:25:51] Andy: Um, is that you, you have to hope again and you have to risk again. You have to open yourself to relationship again. And so one of my favorite things about some of the memories I have since then, which I do have some, , is the people that you invite back in and you say, let’s make a memory together. Right.

[00:26:09] Andy: And you take that risk of, of hoping that. You know, just because one friendship was lost, um, and I have a long list of friendships lost, not just deaths, but changes and moves and disagreements. And like we all do. , and so, so yeah, this is, it’s a journey about baseball, but for me, baseball is like, it’s always had, um, for, like I said, my, it wasn’t, my dad passed it down to me.

[00:26:32] Andy: It’s always been a journey with friends. , and it’s become this vehicle for me to, to think about this really important layer of our lives, which is friendship. Yeah. Oh

[00:26:42] Anna: I love that. I think that’s so well put, you know, and it’s so important and I think it’s one of the things that, that maybe we don’t necessarily understand about why we love the game. You know, we, we know we love baseball. We can’t necessarily pinpoint it or put it into words. And I think that’s a lot to do with it.

[00:27:00] Anna: So,

[00:27:03] Andy: mean, something like Ken Burns baseball reminds you of that. Like baseball becomes this Trojan horse for all sorts of other things, whether it’s the story of our world, our country, um, of friendship, of family, like reading like Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Wait Till Next Year is like, you’ve got friendship, you’ve got family, you’ve got the times, all of that stuff.

[00:27:21] Andy: It, it is something that carries those other experiences well and frames them and narrates them for us.

[00:27:27] Anna: Yeah, definitely, definitely. So. What is the best baseball memory then?

[00:27:36] Andy: So I’m going to have to rattle off.

[00:27:38] Andy: 

[00:27:38] Andy: few 

[00:27:38] Andy: here. I’ve got, I’ve got a couple. I told you about my first game at Wrigley that will always stand out. , the, the second, um, is actually, I went on a, I went on a trip, um, and I did some writing about this after the death of my dad. And I got an Airbnb that was right at the, the, the foot of the hill underneath Dodger Stadium.

[00:28:00] Andy: Um, and I was laying down in this bed. I got the cheap Airbnb. There’s a bunch of like people living in the other room and they were being noisy and I hated it. And I, it, I was just like, I’m sitting next to Dodger Stadium. And so I just walked up to a game that had just started and went to a game instead.

[00:28:17] Andy: That one will forever stand out in my mind. And interestingly , that is one of the only major league ballparks my dad took me to, was Dodger Stadium. And so all of a sudden I realized, this is a deeply significant thing I’m doing that I totally fell into on accident. Um, at least from my perspective, I did.

[00:28:34] Andy: Then the next one is at Dodger Stadium. , I, uh, was taking my mom back to our hometown, , and we were reflecting on my dad, um, and my mom’s in her eighties and we, uh, we decided to take the train up the Oregon coast. So we flew into LA, uh, you get on the train in LA the next morning and you go up the Oregon coast on the Pacific car, uh, Pacific coast starlight, I think it’s called, um, by Amtrak.

[00:28:58] Andy: And, um, and the, the. wild card game of the playoffs that year fell on the night we were there. Um, and I, and so I bought a ticket, um, and my wife and daughter went with me. My wife grew up a Cardinals, uh, in a Cardinals family. It was the Cardinals versus the Dodgers. Mediocre game until the ninth inning, two outs, two strikes.

[00:29:20] Andy: Chris Taylor hits a walk off home run. Stadium goes berserk. Um, that was incredible. I’ll never forget it. Um, my, my friend and I went to a silent retreat at a Franciscan Abbey in New York. Um, and it was playoff time in 2022. And, uh, I wanted to catch a playoff game when we flew out of New York city. And then there was a rain delay and the Yankees playoff game was rescheduled.

[00:29:44] Andy: Uh, and so we ended up going to two playoff games in one night. We went and saw Philly and Atlanta and Cleveland and New York all on the same day. It was absolute chaos, too much driving. We were late to the Philly game, which was a disaster, but we had a blast. Um, my brother in law and I went to the London series this past year and saw the Cubs and Cardinals.

[00:30:06] Andy: So much, so much fun. And last year I saw, I saw 35th homer and do his uncharacteristic bat flip, um, at Angel Stadium. Uh, went to game three of the NLDS, uh, where the D backs, you know, swept the Dodgers, hit four home runs in an inning. Two of them fell about 10 feet from me. And I was with a friend and Mario, my buddy, who is like a bricklayer who I’ve gotten to know, he’s my old neighbor and he’s kind of my.

[00:30:33] Andy: My, uh, Mexican dad is what he says. He calls me his Mexican dad. And so I took him to a game and he had a blast. Um, yeah, anyway, and, oh, and game five of the world series. I mean, it’s a bummer the Diamondbacks lost, but I remember just sitting there and going, As a kid, I grew up pretty poor. I was like, if I could see that I even got to go to a World Series game ever in my life, as a kid, I wouldn’t have believed it.

[00:30:58] Andy: And I got to see the, uh, the final game of the 2023 world series, pretty amazing. So, , yeah, there you go. There’s a rapid fire of baseball memories.

[00:31:07] Anna: you’ve seen a lot of really cool things and a lot just kind of by happenstance, it sounds like, you know, 

[00:31:12] Andy: So some of the happenstance ones have been the

[00:31:14] Andy: coolest actually. 

[00:31:15] Anna: for sure. Sounds like it. So what’s left at the top of the baseball bucket list? What’s the, the one thing you really want to do? See someone you want to meet?

[00:31:24] Andy: Well, yeah, it’s, it’s very specific for me. It’s why I reached out to you is because I want to, I want to hold myself to this, um, this dream in a way. And so this ties back in with kind of the whole story and even what I was talking about with friendship is that, uh, I was taking a walk with my, a coworker of mine, John, and I had written, I wrote a memoir about my dad.

[00:31:47] Andy: I did that in about 2018 out of that trip I took, which ended up being far more interesting than I expected. And, uh, and that was a really good process for me. I like to write, um, and I really enjoyed it. And John said to me, he said, you know, um, if you ever write another book, you should write one about your friend, Sam.

[00:32:06] Andy: You talk about him all the time. And I kid you not the second, like within about. 10 seconds of him saying that, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and that is that I want to drive Sam’s Volkswagen Beetle, 1971 Volkswagen Beetle, to Wrigley Field, um, and his parents still have it, um, so I want to drive his Volkswagen Beetle to Wrigley Field, um, and I want to take friends, either friends of mine, friends of his, and go to a game together at Wrigley Field, and then reflect on that.

[00:32:37] Andy: That’s it. On friendship out of that journey. And so the idea is like some of his friends, I don’t really even know them anymore. I didn’t know them as well as him. They won’t know my friends. I don’t know how many of them will even sign up to do this with me. That’s all a mystery, but I think that there will be a lot of possibility to reflect on the meaning of friendship, what it’s like to have and lose and hope for friendship, um, out of the attempt of doing this.

[00:33:04] Andy: And, and I just, I’m so intrigued by the idea. Of sitting at a game at Wrigley field with, with people who we connect because of someone who has died. And there we are asking the question of each other, like, what does it mean to be friends? , and, and what is, uh, what is something like baseball have to do with it?

[00:33:25] Andy: What have, what have shared experiences have to do with friendship? and then on the way back, where, what, what I need to do is I need to drive to the crash site, which I had never done, um, in his car. And, uh, and. That’s like the, the remaining piece of that grieving process I have not done yet. And, um, and I think that would be, uh, and I think I need to go there by myself.

[00:33:47] Andy: Uh, so the, uh, yeah, that is, that is my baseball bucket list is to experience baseball with that much story and narrative. Um, and, and specifically in that way, that’s what I want to do. And I want to write a book about it.

[00:34:03] Anna: What a beautiful way to remember Sam. You know what I mean? Like, what a cool thing to do to bring. People meaningful to him, meaningful to you all together through the the vehicle that is baseball and kind of, you know, recreate some of the magic behind what connected you guys in the first place and It’s so funny because that day that you make that happen, the game will be so insignificant.

[00:34:35] Anna: It will have, you

[00:34:36] Anna: know, it could almost like not exist because it’s just, you know, it doesn’t matter at all, but I have, I got a feeling something special will happen during the game too. So, I love that such a, such a unique and beautiful, uh, top of the bucket list item. It really just is.

[00:34:53] Andy: Oh, thanks. Yeah. I, uh, there’s so much mystery that surrounds it, that idea that, um, I’ve thought about all that. Like it could be the most snoozer game and that doesn’t matter. Um, but then again, what if it’s

[00:35:05] Anna: Yeah, exactly 

[00:35:06] Andy: what if it’s, what if it’s an amazingly memorable game and how cool would that be? And, and, uh, and it doesn’t matter either way.

[00:35:13] Andy: That’s, uh, it’ll be important.

[00:35:15] Anna: That’s awesome. So you mentioned earlier that you’re a bit of a an autograph hound. Is that something that you’ve Kind of gotten started on again.

[00:35:27] Andy: Yes. Yeah. Great question. Um, I, and not right away, but actually I’m trying to remember when I, yeah, no, I, I, I remember when it happened. So I, I took a ball with me to a spring training game last year. Um, Ooh, no, that’s not, that’s the second thing. The first layer would be, I took my daughter to a Cubs game at Chase Field versus the Diamondbacks.

[00:35:52] Andy: And I, we brought a ball and a glove and I thought we could throw around. She plays softball. And, uh, I. At one point, some players were coming up to sign and I said, Hey, you know, I haven’t signed your ball. and so she had her first interaction, Adbert Alzelie that now, you know, the closer, at least as of last year, the Cubs talked with her, you know, just said hi and like, how’s your day and.

[00:36:16] Andy: She will forever, um, be an Adbert Alzelife fan. She, like, she is so interested, like, we sat by the bullpen last year and he was eating an ice cream cone in the bullpen. And she’s just like, Adbert’s so cool, like, let’s check him out, he’s eating an ice cream cone. so she got a few, a few autographs on her ball, and that sparked something in me, and I was like, I felt weird about being 40 and getting autographs, so.

[00:36:39] Andy: Anyway, I took a ball to a spring training game at the, at the A’s at Hohokam, the A’s spring training stadium. And they pull the, um, they pull the netting up, uh, all along the side during the warmups, which is unique. And so I had a seat in the second row, tickets to watch the A’s are cheap. And I’d taken another buddy, an old artist friend I’ve got here in Tucson, to a game just as a way to hang out with him.

[00:37:05] Andy: But I brought a ball. I just, I brought a ball and a pen. And I was like, You know what? I’m sitting in the second row. Somebody comes up and signs. And, uh, and Cody Bellinger strolled over and there were like four kids there. And so I was like, all right, I’m going to be a weird four year old because there’s only four kids.

[00:37:20] Andy: So I stuck my ball out and he signed it. And I said, thanks, Cody. Hope you have a great season this year. And he did. And, uh, and I, I kind of got hooked. So I, uh, I have. even this year, Anna, I have debated getting back into taking cards to games. Um, actually I saw, I saw about a 60 year old guy. I went to a game in Puerto Rico, uh, over the, in November, I was there for, for kind of a work related thing.

[00:37:48] Andy: And I caught a, a winter league game and I saw about a 60 year old guy that had a stack of cards getting autographs. And I was like, why not? You know? So I’m, uh, yeah, I’m, I’m, I’m open to it. I, I did. I did get another Cubs ball. I got a Swanson, Horner, Seiza Suzuki on a ball that in Pittsburgh. And, uh, yeah, it’s fun.

[00:38:09] Andy: I think I’m going to do it again. I think I’m back.

[00:38:11] Anna: Why not? You know, why not? I ran into a guy here in, uh, Texas, it was the last year at the old ballpark, and he was obviously, like, very skilled at autograph seeking. I mean, he knew all of the obscure players from the visiting team, and like, you know, uh, was just, like, super good at it, and I, I remember talking to him because, you know, there are those guys that you see too who will have, like, one of, or they’ll have, like, six of, like, the same card, and you know that they’re just trying to turn them.

[00:38:47] Anna: Uh, but I didn’t get that vibe from him, so I wanted to talk to him about it, and I asked him, I was like, What? you know, what is it about autograph collecting that’s like, you know, why do you care so much about it? Why is it so exciting to you? And he was like, well, some people hunt ducks and some people hunt deer and I hunt autographs.

[00:39:05] Anna: And it’s just like, you know, I was like, wow, that’s such a great way to put it because, obviously there’s the potential, I guess, to find something kind of valuable, but it’s. Really the process and the excitement of like trying to figure out a way to get Cody Bellinger to sign a ball for you,

[00:39:23] Andy: Right. Well, and, and even to take it further, like, I mean, to connect with even this, like book idea, I, I think there’s a deep, um. Like, we, I think we like a deeper personal engagement and when, so think about the process of getting an autograph. Not only are you near a person who you admire, you think they’re great at the game of baseball, but they’re writing their name on something that belongs to you and they’re giving it back to you.

[00:39:50] Andy: You hand something precious to you, you know, maybe an official major league ball to them. They write their name on it and they share their name with you. They, they give it back to you and say, now this is yours. Like I give you something of myself. And, and then what the possibility that opens up after that is that you might even engage in a little bit of conversation.

[00:40:13] Andy: There’s a possibility that you might be able to exchange. And I think you can look at that as like, Oh, it’s hero worship or something. That’d be the negative side. But the positive side is we all desire to like, not only see people who are good at what they do, but to, to feel a little bit like known and to have a shared life.

[00:40:33] Andy: And so for them to give you their name means something. So like my Tony Gwynn autograph card, one of the best, um, one of the best autograph moments. I, I was, I kind of knew, I knew High Corbett field. I knew where the players came out, but I also knew. That sometimes if there’s a big crowd back by the locker room and a player is going to kind of wait it out that they would just go sit in the dugout or they would kind of like go out to the field and do some stretches and wait it out.

[00:40:58] Andy: So there was a big crowd when the Padres were in town and I thought, I’m going to go check the field. Like nobody’s, nobody’s over by the dugout. I’m going to crawl on top of the dugout, peek my little head over and just see what’s up. And so I ran over there and I jumped on top of the dugout. And as I did, Tony Gwynn was walking out of the dugout.

[00:41:18] Andy: Like he was doing exactly what I thought he might do, or somebody might do. And it was of all players, that was the best one at the time, at that moment. And I said, Mr. Gwynne, you know, and he kind of walked over, he goes, Hey, how are you doing tonight? You know, and I’m good. And like, you know, is it okay if I, if I sign a car or if you sign a card for me and he’s like, Oh yeah, yeah.

[00:41:36] Andy: How’d you, how’d you like the game? You know, and just, we had a, an extended back and forth. And I’m just laying up on top of the dugout, nobody around, like, uh, you know, and that, so my sense of who Tony Gwynn is, as a person, is deeper than it is for everybody else who was there that night. Right? Or it’s that.

[00:41:59] Andy: Every other spectator. Um, and that, that, that’s, that matters. That’s what, that’s what it is to be human, is to connect and to, and not just to see him hit a ball, but to be like, I know what he’s like. I know his name. , he wrote his name on my card. Just for me. Yeah.

[00:42:19] Anna: I love that. that’s why the, the negative interactions carry so much weight, too, is because, you know, they, it’s, it’s the opposite side of that. But again, humans 

[00:42:30] Andy: they, cause what you’re thinking. What you feel in those moments is it doesn’t matter that I’m

[00:42:37] Anna: exactly.

[00:42:39] Andy: yeah. Yeah

[00:42:41] Anna: That’s cool. I hope you get back into it, like, even more so, and I, uh, I look forward to hearing about, you know, the big gets of the upcoming season. So,

[00:42:53] Andy: Same. Thank you.

[00:42:54] Anna: where do we send people to find you online?

[00:42:56] Andy: So I have a little landing page andylittleton. com And there’s books some other podcasts. Um, I do some kind of religious, uh work that you’ll see on there But then there’s you know, I write articles from time to time a couple have been about baseball um the the book, uh that I the memoir about um, which is not really about my father it turned out to be more of a A young man who’s lost his father connects with the type of people in the type of places where you would have found his father, which is small towns, old Fords, um, the, the, uh, the obscure and, and forgotten folks.

[00:43:33] Andy: Um, so it’s a memoir about all of that, uh, that, but you could find any of that on that landing page or a link to it. It’s pretty. Pretty, uh, pretty easy to find your way to those different things I’ve done.

[00:43:44] Anna: Well, Andy, I can’t thank you enough for, for making time to join me today and sharing those stories. Um, it was, uh, I really enjoyed it and I think, uh, it was, it was nice to talk about something a little deeper than, you know, just baseball because it never is just baseball. All 

[00:44:01] Andy: Well, thanks. Thanks for being willing to go there with me and I feel honored.

[00:44:05] Anna: And that will wrap up this episode of the baseball bucket list podcast, special things to Andy Littleton for joining us today and sharing those stories and memories. If this sounds like something you’d like to do, if you think you might like to be a guest on the show, had the baseballbucketlist.com/podcast and fill out an application. I’d absolutely love to hear from you. While you’re there, make sure to spend some time on the site, sign up for a free membership. Build your own baseball bucket list and track your ballpark visits. If you find yourself enjoying the show each week, please take a moment to rate and review it in the podcast app of your choice. I would really appreciate it. That’s it for this week. Thanks so much for listening. We’ll see you next episode. 

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