By and large, the mainstream media does a tremendous job covering Major League Baseball, but one significant story slipped under the radar this week. Willie Robertson, the current leader of the famed Duck Commander clan of Louisiana waterfowl hunting icons, was in D.C. for three days, conducting business and also hanging out with Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche and Nats outfielder Ryan Langerhans. He left behind several autographed copies of "Duck Commander: For a Few Ducks More," the company's latest duck-hunting DVD.
That DVD has a 10-minute trailer for next year's "Buck Commander," the first in what's scheduled to be a series of deer-hunting videos that will likely feature, among others, Todd Helton, David Dellucci, Chipper Jones, Mike DeJean, Brad Hawpe, Aaron Cook, Langerhans, LaRoche and several more Major Leaguers. Which is noteworthy.
"I realized someone was going to see this and say 'What the heck'?" Robertson just told me.
Indeed. You can watch brief snippets of footage on BuckCommander.com, which will have its formal launch in the next few weeks. I think I spotted Chipper Jones, David Dellucci and someone's bloody hands during the site's video intro.
This all started via Helton, a huge duck-hunting enthusiast. About a year and a half ago, Robertson flew out to Colorado to meet him, and was then introduced to several of Helton's hunting teammates. Robertson's family knows a thing or two about hunting videos--"I've had the number one waterfowl video at Wal-Mart eight years in a row; I know how to sell videos," he told me--and a few months later, Robertson and his MLB friends got to talking about branching out from ducks to deer.
Independently, LaRoche had called Duck Commander HQ and requested a hat; the Duck Commander guys had never heard of him, although it would seem that everyone's heard of the Duckmen, who are famous for their huge beards and wild look.
"In the hunting industry, they're pretty big time," Langerhans said.
"They're kind of the big leagues of duck hunting; any water fowler knows the 'Duck Commander' series," LaRoche agreed.
(For the record, LaRoche has a duck-hunting icon tattooed on his right arm. It's the image of a Drake, which is also the name of his son.)
So Robertson reached out to LaRoche to discuss this deer-hunting project, and the family of players kept growing; the Buck Commander folks have also been in touch with J.D. Drew and Jon Lieber and Aaron Fultz and Roy Oswalt; "pretty much everybody who hunts in the Major Leagues, we've contacted," Robertson told me. They launched the company in the fall and had thoughts of putting out the first feature-length DVD this spring, but decided it would be best to tease it now and come strong in 2008, after a full offseason of taping.
"It's got a chance to be a pretty big deal, and the best part is, the guys that are in it have a passion for hunting," LaRoche said. "Baseball's so short. Later on, [hunting's] something we'll have to play around with."
The idea is to make a yearly DVD with deer-hunting highlights from a variety of Major Leaguers and their friends, although the idea is not to traffic in their baseball success.
"I guess what I'm trying to say is it doesn't hurt that they're Major Leaguers, but they've got to carry a good hunting show regardless," Robertson told me. "Because a lot of people won't know who they are. I guess a lot of people will know Chipper, but unless you live in Denver you're not going to know who Brad Hawpe is anyways. It's not a bunch of paid employees that I sent out; it's just really a group of buddies, and I think that comes across on camera. It's about them. I didn't want to use anybody, I didn't way to say 'Chipper Jones with the Atlanta Braves!' It's your project guys, and I want you to carry it through because you're a good hunter and you're good on TV and you're entertaining, not just because you happen to be a Major Leaguer."
(The Nats clubhouse, for the record, would seem to be a fertile ground for future recruits. Yesterday, Jason Simontacchi was looking at the 2007 Cabela's catalog while he and several teammates watched "The Outfitter," an episode dealing with gator hunting.
"They have a spot, about yea big, where you can hit them with a bullet in the brain," Simontacchi was narrating. "Same with a crocodile. Oh, here we go. Bang! Look at that hole in its head.")
Anyhow, I asked Willie Robertson which of the baseball players was the best deer hunter, and he punted.
"Oh God, you're gonna get me in trouble," he said. "The debate's still out. They're all competitive; they all want to be the best at what they do. When the first video comes out, who's going to have the best hunt? Who's going to look like the best hunter? That's what we're shooting for. So I guess I'll just let the public decide."