It was spring training time for the Atlanta Braves in Orlando, Fla., but Chipper Jones already had his mind on another season -- deer hunting.
An avid deer hunter, Jones took time out from practice in March to tape scenes for the Buck Commander television show, which debuts on ESPN2 Sunday morning (July 5) at 8:26 ET. ESPNOutdoors.com caught up with Jones and Buck Commander host Willie Robertson while they were filming at an Orlando swimming pool.
Jones is ecstatic about his part in the program, a series of weekly vignettes on deer hunting.
"This is what I've always wanted to do," he said of his participation in the program. "When people see me on a video or on TV, I want them to know something's fixing to happen. I want them to think I'm a professional hunter."
He's just one of a star-studded lineup of major league baseball players, including Washington Nationals outfielder Ryan Langerhans, Pittsburgh Pirate first baseman Adam LaRoche, and ex-New York Yankee Michael DeJean. Robertson, part of the "Duck Commander" family of Louisiana, adds his unique personality to the mix, creating a different kind of hunting show.
Robertson got the idea for the program (and for a series of DVDs on deer hunting) from his father's show, Duck Commander, which dates back to the 1970s. Well known in hunting circles, Willie Robertson met avid deer hunter and Pittsburgh Pirate Matt Duff, who had big league ties with serious deer hunters, notably his friend Chipper Jones. As Robertson and Duff brainstormed, the Buck Commander idea was born.
The Buck Commanders' calling card is action. The ESPN2 vignettes (plus the new Buck Commander 2 DVD, available from www.buckcommander.com) represent a clear departure from the traditional hunting show format. The goal, according to Duff, who is vice president of production for the project, is to portray hunting in a more light-hearted way that lends itself perfectly to short-form programming.
"We wanted to demonstrate that big bucks aren't everything in a hunting show," Duff said. "We kill big bucks, but the show is more about having fun out there. When you mix in a future Hall of Fame ball player who gets paid millions to be serious, and you see him joking around in deer camp, that shows you how much fun hunting can be, just like any regular guy's camp."
Robertson, a native of West Monroe, La., believes the combination of the personalities is what makes the show interesting.
"When you take the ball player's locker room mentality and mix it in with our antics, we think it really comes down to earth," he said. "It's not a traditional hunting video. We're not trying to sell anything, we're just trying to show everyone that you don't have to be overly serious about hunting to love it. We also throw in a ton of great tips."
We're really excited to get this [program] out," Duff added. "We're ready to put more fun into hunting."