Open letter to the B.A.S.S. Nation

Dateline:  B.A.S.S Nation Championship

.231

In all my dealing with baseball, that’s the only stat I remember.

.231

B.A.S.S. Nation dudes, that’s the only stat I want you to remember as well.

.231

It’s a long forgotten stat pulled out of the grass roots history of Major League Baseball…pulled out from the minor leagues.

.231

Darn close now to a 100 year old stat.

Some, if not most, will argue what I say next, but I think it may be THE most important stat in the history of Major League Baseball.

It was the career stat of some unknown kid in the minor league who combined with the .231 managed to hit exactly 1 Home Run.

.231

If it was up to me, .231 would be the number I would put on EVERY B.A.S.S. Nation boat.

.231 may in fact be the ultimate number in the grass roots of any sport, and to be clear I believe the Nation to be the grass root of our sport.

This is an Open letter to all the .231’s out there, to all the B.A.S.S. Nation members, to all the 56 guys here from the Nation fishing for a chance to compete in the Bassmaster Classic.

Think, .231.

And know deep within your heart, that all things are possible.  That no matter how humble the beginning, the ending can be glorious.

The ending, can be magic.

Magic like it was for the unknown kid who hit the .231 in his minor league career.

And who grew up to become,

Babe Ruth.

“…you just call on me brother…”

Personally, the Nation Championship is one of my favorite events to cover, I’ve been to every one since I started this gig back 5 or so years ago.

And when my time is done here at B.A.S.S. the Nation Championship will be the last event I will cover, and I believe that is how it should be.

I love to cover this event because it is the only sport I have ever covered that gives the ordinary Joe’s a shot at immortality in the sport…an ordinary Joe can win this event and then go on from here and in a few months time hoist the Bassmaster Classic  Championship trophy above his head.

This isn’t some kind of elaborate Fantasy Camp here, this is Bassmaster Classic Boot Camp.

And trust me all you folks who tune into this Nation Championship thing here, this isn’t a free ride, those dudes out there competing beat a lot of other dudes to get here.

They have earned the right to be here.

And from here, all things are possible.

.231

“…when you need a hand…”

So, check this story out, true cross my heart stuff.

I take that there panoramic shot that you’re looking at of the B.A.S.S. Nation laying down the rules meeting, took me four tries to get the stupid effect to work, so when it did I was pretty happy about it so I hit the button on my Galaxy phone that somehow gets the photo up on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/don.barone) and before I get back to the hotel and in bed to watch MNF…I get this comment under the photo:

“I wish all bass fishermen had the chance just to make it one time to the national championship and know you may be one that goes to the Bassmaster Classic.”  Randy Ladner

I’m thinking that’s pretty cool so I do my Facebook due diligence and “Like” it then pour me a Sweet Tea, grab a hunk of Pepper Jack cheese and crawl back under the covers and start watching the pre-game blah blah blah waiting for the game to begin.

Several hours later I wake up to a squished mound of Pepper Jack Cheese in my bellybutton and a gymnastic thing on the tube.

Didn’t see one down of the game.

But, I remember, of all things, what the dude wrote on my Facebook page about the Nation panoramic photo so I brush off the Pepper Jack and get up and write this comment:

Randy dude...love what you wrote, think many people feel that way, doing a story now and would love to use the first sentence of what you wrote in the story for Bassmaster-dot-com...let me know if that's okay with you.

Swig of Sweet Tea.

Back to bed.

“…we all need somebody to lean on…”

So.

Fast forward, this morning, fog delay for practice…it’s like 40-something outside on the dock, I climb in a warm B.A.S.S. Tundra, and sort of, you know, try to take a nap…

Knock, Knock, “Hey db”

So much for the light tinted windows.

“Hey man.”

“Did you get my comment.”

We are all bilingual now, English and Facebook.

“No man.”

“I’m Randy Ladner, I wrote that comment on the Nation meeting photo and I commented back to you.”

“Oh.”  I’m face to face with a “friend” I had never met before.

“I said it was okay to use my comment in the story.”

“Okay.”

And my “friend” starts to walk away.  Technically I’m thinking, for the story I’ve got what I need and it’s warm in here and cold out there where an actual verbal comment might be, but all my past Journalism friends are yelling in my head, “Hey Stupid, go talk to him.”

And since I still have lunch with many of those Journalist friends,

I do,

what they say I should do,

in my head.

“…and I'll be your friend…”

“Dude.”

(note to self, in thick fog, never just yell out dude when there are 56 dudes also in thick fog)

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

And so on.

So I catch up to Randy and we walk over to my rental car where my warm reporter’s notebook and warm pen is and I say, “So…I just need, you know, a comment about your comment…”

And yet both of us understood that.

“I commented that basically the Nation Championship, it means everything to us.”

I write the comment of the comment down.

“db, it is the only way the poor man can do it, we all just the working man out here, to us, to be here, it’s a dream come true.”

Turns out Randy lives in Mississippi, works as a Tool Room Attendant for DuPont and belongs to a small B.A.S.S. club back home, “the members they keep calling me, giving me a pep talk, it means so much to my club to be recognized, makes our whole small community feel good.”

And then Randy said, “Thank you and all the B.A.S.S. workers out here for all you do for us.”

“…I'll help you…”

Randy my friend in person friend, it is you and all the other Nation members who should be thanked, dude we would have nowhere to be out here in if it wasn’t for you.

Thank You.

The Nation is not some sort of throwaway revenue thing, the Nation is our pipeline to the future.

THIS TOURNAMENT MATTERS.

Nation dudes, I’m going to tell you something, flat out truth, I’ve been offered the opportunity to at the end of my contract next year, leave this and go back to covering the sports all the world knows about, covering the players all the world knows about.

More money, chance for more hardware on the shelf.

But there’s also this, I spent 15 years interviewing many Multi-Millionaire 20 year old athletes who can’t spell the league they play in if I spotted them the first and last initial, done hundred’s of interviews and never, NEVER once heard this,

“…means everything.”

If you are a sports writer and you are honest with yourself, in your heart you know you have come to the field of play to hear, “…means everything,” and to write those two words.

To write of sports you shouldn’t write about the equipment used, that means so little to what sports is about.

“Means everything,” is the soul of the game.

“Means everything,” is why we do what we do, why you do what you do.

To me, after 15 years of means little, it is an honor to write means everything, make no mistake, in my mind the Nation is the soul of this sport.

And it is to you we lean on.

Thank you.

And to the six who will move on from here to the Bassmaster Classic, I hope you get to raise the hardware, but if not please remember this.

.200

0 HR’s

First MLB year stats of,

The Babe.

All things,

possible,

when it,

“means everything.”

“…carry on.”

Lean On Me

Bill Withers

db