Yesterday, my family and I said goodbye to a dear friend. We first met Andy Strope at Drillers Stadium in Tulsa, OK. At the time, the hometown Drillers were an affiliate of the Colorado Rockies but the fanbase was a true baseball melting pot. The Cardinals, Rangers, and Rockies have each been associated with the Drillers and our central location draws fans among the Royals, Astros, and even the Cubs.
Andy and his family were lifelong Cub fans. While this situation could potentially lead to bad blood, in our case it would cause beer tabs to go back and forth depending on who won the head-to-head bets. Our love of baseball preempted the rivalry and while in the ballpark we were Drillers fans first and foremost.
At Drillers Stadium, we were season ticket holders as was Andy, his dad Jack, and his brothers, Greg and Dusty. Even though we paid good money to purchase seats to the ballpark, none of us chose the sit in them. Our group would collectively gather on the wall behind our section where we could hang out and keep our beers perched on top of the sections trash can. The group would become known as “The Trash Can Crew” and we were proud to have the moniker. The trash can lid was the perfect table to keep your beverage while also being close to the smoke-hole, restrooms, and it even saved our favorite vendor a few (many) trips up and down the stairs.
Our group grew to be 10-15 people strong and very rarely missed a Driller home game. My brother, myself, Andy, his brother Dusty, and a small portion of our crew would also gather throughout the offseason in several local establishments and we never missed the yearly Harry Caray toast in March that was our official start to the baseball season.
In April 2010 the Drillers opened the new downtown ballpark known as OneOk Field. While being exactly the jewel that Tulsa deserved, it, unfortunately, ended the run of the Trash Can Crew. As time moved forward and our lives became busy, we lost touch as a group but stayed within a phone call’s reach.
When I received the unfortunate news this weekend, I immediately thought back to the memories and laughs we shared at the ballpark. Over these last few days, it occurred to me that the friends you meet and the groups that form from those friendships aren’t just coincidence or happenstance but maybe, just maybe, the work of something greater.
The world lost a good man last week. I’ll miss you, Andy Strope.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts,