Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wednesday Friendsday, Vol. 2: Arron Littleton

And so a second Wednesday brings us to a second volume of Wednesday Friendsday, this time featuring Arron Littleton.  You may have seen me mention Arron a few times on here as he is the Rangers Ballpark guru, despite the fact he lives two hours away.  So, let's get down to business and learn more about Mr. Littleton.

Arron (right) and his grandfather, then 88, at his grandfather's
first Rangers game.

Name: Arron Littleton

From: Wichita Falls, TX

Age: 24

Years collecting: 13

Main items you collect: Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars, 2009 SP Legendary Cuts Autographs, Nelson Cruz, 1996 & 1997 Fleer Metal

TGC: How did you first get into autograph collecting?

AL: It's actually kind of a funny and completely random story because I got into collecting almost entirely by accident. My mom and I were going to Six Flags one day when I was 11 and we decided to use the restroom at the ballpark before we headed over there. On our way to the restroom, we walked across the parking lot and saw a bunch of people sitting outside what I know now to be the tunnel where the players drive in. It wasn't long before a car pulled up and everyone got up and ran towards it. This was more than enough to pique my interest so we went over and started talking to some of the fans there and they told me that they were sitting out there to get the player's autographs as they drove in and that car that had just stopped to sign for them was Ranger legend Pudge Rodriguez. Needless to say, I don't think we made it to Six Flags that day and I've been in love with the hobby ever since.

TGC: Do you remember the first item you ever got signed?

AL: Sure. About 5 minutes after Pudge had stopped, Juan Mateo pulled up and signed my cap. I'll never forget that feeling.

TGC: Do you prefer getting yours in-person, or through the mail?

AL: I love them both but for different reasons. With in-person graphing, you get the entire experience of going to a ball game, waiting for your favorite player, handing him your item, maybe even hearing some stories he has to tell and definitely getting a story of your own to tell your friends. There's nothing that replaces that. The conquest part of it is a lot of fun. That being said, IP graphing is expensive if you don't live in a graphing city. It takes me 2 hours worth of gas to get to the nearest pro ball game. In that respect, I love that I can spend less than a dollar and get autographs. I just love graphing any way I can.

TGC: What are your top five favorite items in your collection?

AL: 1. Michael Young Drawing - I drew Michael's picture from a mid-2000's Donruss release (I don't remember exactly which one) and he signed it for me about a month later. It was so cool because both he and his wife were impressed with my work. This one is a true 1 of 1.

2. Michael Young "2,000 Hits" Card - The night that Michael Young got his 2,000th hit a couple of seasons ago, he stopped after almost everyone had left from the tunnel and there were only about 4 of us left. He was on the phone and told us he would sign when his conversation was over. We waited anxiously until he motioned us over. On such a huge occasion, I had to ask for the inscription and Michael obliged.

3. Josh Hamilton/Carl Crawford Dual Signed Rookie - As much as I disdain Hamilton now, he is undeniably a huge part of Rangers history. I got him and Crawford the same series when Crawford was playing for the Rays. I like this one a lot because I don't think a lot of players have one like it.

4. Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton Home Run Derby Balls - I have the State Farm Gold Home Run Derby balls from the Derby in 2008 and 2009 signed by Hamilton and Cruz. Also a cool and rare part of my collection.

5. Kinsler, Hamilton, Young Triple Auto - I was fortunate enough to get Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, and Josh Hamilton on their 2009 Topps card from photo day. I think it looks great.

TGC: How did we end up meeting?

AL: I saw that you were from Wichita Falls on The Bench so I sent you a PM. We just kinda started hanging out after that and the rest is history.

TGC: Any fun stories from hounding over the years?

AL: The best one has to be the time when Drew, Chris and I were graphing the Rangers Alumni weekend last year. John Wetteland came off the elevator from the suites and was waiting to catch the one under the ballpark. Chris opens the door to the elevator room and asks Wetteland (who appears to be obviously hammered) to sign. John starts laughing and gives a couple of drunken nods before signing for all three of us, taking off just as the dealers realize what's happening. We ticked off security and got one over on the dealers. That was a good night.

TGC: What's your opinion on autograph dealers?

AL: People who try to make a living flipping autos should be shot. They give all of us a bad name and that makes players much less likely to sign for us. They're just trying to take advantage of the players and it ruins it for all of us who just honestly love the hobby.

TGC: You and your collection were featured in a newspaper article once.  Tell us about it and how it came about.

AL: I was always known as "that Rangers guy" in college because I always wore Rangers gear. After the Rangers went to the World Series in 2010, a friend of mine wanted to write an article about me for his Journalism class so I agreed. About a year later, the editor of the school paper called me and told me they wanted to take some pictures of my collection so they could print it in the paper. It was really a fascinating experience.

TGC: What is your favorite place to hound?

AL: I think it has to be a tie between Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. I love my home ballpark in Arlington but the graphing is certainly easier in Oklahoma.

TGC: Of all the players you've encountered, pick five you would say are the friendliest in terms of interacting with fans.

AL: 1. Pat Neshek - I think Pat has to be #1 in any discussion of the friendliest ballplayers. Being a collector himself, he always goes above and beyond to accommodate requests.
2. Jeremy Guthrie - I had to take into consideration that Jeremy bought me Chipotle in Spring Training this year. Ha ha. He's always willing to sign, both IP and TTM. He hates Indians cards (sorry Drew), so beware of that fact.

Hangin' with Guthrie at Spring Training in Arizona
3. Jay Powell - Jay was a Ranger when I first started collecting autographs in the early 2000's. He would sign at the tunnel literally every day and sign anything you had. Great guy.
4. Ryan Roberts - Every time I have ever seen Ryan in-person, he's asking fans if they would like an autograph. He sat and just talked to fans for over an hour when the D'Backs came to Arlington last year.
5. Oscar Taveras - I hadn't had the pleasure of meeting this young man until a few weeks ago. Top be nearly the consensus #2 prospect in baseball, he was great. He signed about 100 or so autographs and took pictures with everyone who asked. Good to see the young guys who sign.
Honorable Mentions: Dustin Nippert, Mike Olt, Mitch Moreland, Doug Brocail, Tom Foley, Jason  Frasor, Brian Bannister, David Murphy, Brendan Ryan, Hunter Pence, Jamey Carroll, Mike Jacobs

TGC: On the opposite end of that, who are the, shall we say, roughest around the edges?

AL: Jurickson Profar comes to mind. He's terrible. Wily Taveras and Hank Blalock, as well.

TGC: Has anything ever made you want to get out of the hobby?

AL: Never. I love this hobby!

TGC: Any other thoughts, words of advice, anything like that for other collectors out there?

AL: Be prepared. Be polite. Be pleasant. Do work, son!

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