Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche has a tattoo on his right arm; it’s a drake. LaRoche also has a son; and his name is “Drake.” On his left arm is a buck tattoo.
You could say the guy loves hunting.
It’s LaRoche, in fact, along with Duck Commander and Buck Commander CEO Willie Robertson’s network of Major League Baseball players that have helped take the Robertsons’ business to the next level.
Robertson and LaRoche’s relationship began when LaRoche called Duck Commander’s headquarters to order a hat back around 2007. Though the Robertsons had never heard of LaRoche, who was playing for the Atlanta Braves at the time, Robertson ended up connecting well with LaRoche and later contacting him about a deer-hunting project, now known as Buck Commander.
“I started Buck Commander because I always saw potential in the deer market,” Robertson says. “As I found out more about TV, there’s only a few water fowl shows, but deer is everywhere. You can hunt deer in all 50 states.
“I saw a lot more money changing from the deer side, from the industry perspective and the customers. We had deer hunting growing up, and we just happened to run into these guys who were baseball players. They were fans for our stuff, and I heard all these deer stories. I just said, ‘Why don’t we start a deer hunting company?’ And I’ll admit, I didn’t really know what we were going to do and how it was all going to work out, but I said, ‘Let’s go have fun, and allow the entertainment to drive the brand and license that out.’”
The two of them took their passion for the outdoors and did just that: They had fun. Since the MLB season ends in October and doesn’t start until February, LaRoche’s schedule was perfect for deer hunting and perfect for Robertson’s new business endeavors.
Robertson decided to not only expand the family business from a merchandise standpoint, adding Buck Commander to Duck Commander, but also decided to expand in entertainment.
With the help of LaRoche, Robertson pioneered the development of their second show on the Outdoor Channel: Buck Commander (Duck Commander, being their first), a show dedicated to deer hunting. As the show came together, LaRoche also became friends with two up-and-coming country stars in Atlanta: Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean.
“At the time, they were not famous at all,” Robertson says. “Adam was the real connector, and he hung onto them and checked on their careers. We just invited them to come to hunting camp with us, actually, just to hear them sing by the camp fire. We need some entertainment while we were there. We brought them along onto the project, and once the opportunity came along, they jumped on it.”
The cast of Buck Commander on Outdoor Channel makes for an interesting dynamic: Duck Commander and Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson hunting with Major League Baseball players Chipper Jones, Ryan Langerhans, Tom Martin, and LaRoche, and country music stars Bryan and Aldean.
“A baseball player gets interviewed every day of the year,” Robertson says. “The country singers are naturally entertaining. It wasn’t difficult to make a hunting show and put it together.”
By Stephen Copeland
Stephen Copeland is a staff writer at Sports Spectrum magazine.