Former Page standout goes pro, signs with Alexandria Aces
By Krista Allen
Western Agency Bureau
PAGE, Ariz., June 13, 2013
(Special to the Times – Krista Allen)
T he day before they left back to Alexandria, La., Craig Littleman and his fiancée Ashleigh Schebesta sat down at one of the picnic tables outside Big Lake Trading Post where some hitchhikers would sit to catch a ride.
The slight noxious whiff from the nearby gas pumps was in the air, but the newly engaged couple didn't mind.
They sat facing south, toward LeChee where Littleman grew up like any other child on Navajo Nation. But he's now living in the Pelican State where he says it's not the same as Lake Powell country.
"It's way different than the reservation and it's a different culture," said Littleman. "Growing up here, I grew up like any other Navajo kid, just on the rez. I went through hard times, but I feel like that developed me into a strong person."
Perhaps his toughness is what got him to the United League Baseball, a six-team independent league based in Texas.
For the past two years at the Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport, the 23-year-old standout rose to fame.
In 2012, he drew 39 starts for the Centenary Gents and hit .252 on the season with a record of 30 hits, 17 RBIs, and a log of 10 extra base knocks, including 7 doubles. And that's not all.
Before transferring to Centenary, he served as a team captain for the Phoenix College Bears,
In high school, Littleman earned four letters in baseball, two in basketball and two in football. And he was a two-time all-state and all-region selection, serving as a team captain and helping his team to the Grand Championship twice.
Littleman is T?'ízí?aní (Many Goats), and born for Tódich'íi'nii (Bitterwater).
"I've been playing since I was a seventh grader (at Page Middle School)," he said. "One of my best friends, Will Thomas—his dad started a traveling baseball team called the Desert Dogs. They had tryouts here and I tried out for the team and made it."
"That's when I noticed I was good at it, so I just kept playing."
However, he was still into basketball.
"I had the big dreams of playing in the NBA, but I knew that wasn't going to happen," said Littleman. "I switched my focus to baseball because I was better than I was basketball."
Needless to say, it wasn't easy to get to where he is today.
"I actually got cut my first semester (at Phoenix College)," said Littleman as he remembered that gloomy day during his freshman year. "I took it hard, and I thought my playing career was over."
It wasn't over. Due to an injured player on the team, he received a called from the coach two weeks later.
Littleman says he came from the bottom of the baseball food chain.
"Some people don't think it's possible to even get looked at coming from the reservation," said Littleman. "But I've always believed in my skills and I've always believed I was good enough."
On May 12, Littleman signed a professional contract with the Alexandria Aces, and has already seen success in the early season, which started on May 23. He is batting .222 with a pair of runs scored and a RBI.
Being away from home has become a lot easier.
"My teammates always say, 'You're the first Navajo I've met.' And they jokingly say, 'I've studied you in school, 'Do you live in a teepee? Do you hunt buffalo?'" said Littleman. "They're completely clueless of how it actually is over here, and I always say, 'No, we actually live in houses with running water.'"
Otherwise he says he misses frybread and mutton "all the time."
"Anytime my family (visits), I always tell them to bring some mutton," said Littleman, who is the son of Mae Curley and Raymond Littleman.
"They've been my support and backbone through my playing days," said Littleman.
Littleman is also the older brother of southpaw pitcher for the University of Arizona baseball team, Vincent Littleman. The younger brother, who was voted UA's Freshman Student of the Year in 2010, recently graduated with a bachelor's degree.
Contact: Krista Allen, firstname.lastname@example.org.