Charlie O'Brien will be back in Atlanta late next week, and he's looking forward to it for a couple of reasons.
For one thing, he said, his 1994-95 stint with the Braves was his most enjoyable time in the 15 years he spent as a major league catcher - capped by "the highlight" of his career, the 1995 World Series championship. From a business sense, the big Buckarama exhibition gives him a chance to showcase the products of his new company.
O'Brien and Chattanooga native Todd Wofford started "Charlie O' Products" out of their mutual love for deer hunting and their belief that they could improve the experience of the "everyday hunter," as Wofford said. With doe estrus, scent bands, soaps and other products enhanced by a chemist's help, they already are selling online through www.charlieoproducts.com and hope soon to secure distributors.
The two will be featured vendors at the Georgia Wildlife Federation's Buckarama Aug. 5-7 in Atlanta and Aug. 19-21 in Perry. They will conduct seminars at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Atlanta show on "scent and scent contact," "how to hang a tree stand for more effective bow kills" and "how to hunt the moon phases," and O'Brien will be available for autographs.
The Atlanta show is being held at the Expo Center North at Jonesboro Road, off exit 55 of Interstate 285 South.
Wofford, 43, was a baseball standout at Central High School and Shorter University and has worked for the Rome/Floyd County recreation department for 21 years. He's now the park superintendent.
He's had a company on the side that repairs ballfields, but he admitted that deer hunting has been his passion since Shorter teammate Marty Chandler from Ringgold introduced him to it during their college days.
"The day Marty took me bowhunting, he created a monster," said Wofford, who has been spending some extra time in Chattanooga recently because his mother is ill. "I'm serious about my hunting, and Charlie is, too. When baseball was over for me, I still had that competitive drive, and I put it into bowhunting.
"I started thinking about ways to improve products for deer hunting, and I wanted to start a company. But somebody told me I needed to work with a celebrity, somebody with name recognition, so I started checking into possibilities."
O'Brien, 51, grew up in Tulsa, Okla., and has been an outdoorsman all his life. He hunts all over the place now and is a host on the Mossy Oaks "Deer Thugs" television show on the Pursuit Channel.
He owns a deer farm near Tulsa that he calls the Catch-22 Ranch in a tribute to his baseball position and preferred number - actually, the preferred number of his whole family, including his father, his siblings and his two sons who are catchers, one just drafted by the Dodgers and the other headed to the University of Louisville.
When O'Brien was suggested as a possible partner for his venture, Wofford contacted him through Mossy Oak. They struck up a friendly relationship via email and phone until meeting at a hunting camp in Illinois not far from where Wofford already leased a farm for hunting.
"He had the personality I was looking for, and we had the same ideas and same philosophy," Wofford said. "We've hunted together and he's just a great guy."
Said O'Brien: "What Todd talked to me about was kind of something I wanted to do, too. I just know products that have worked for me, and through usage I had ideas about how they could be better. Todd has more marketing and sales experience, so our different expertise and our common beliefs will make for a healthy relationship, I think. It's been fun so far, and I'm excited about it."
O'Brien knows fans will want to talk baseball at the hunting show, and he's fine with that.
"That was the best group of guys I played with, those guys in Atlanta," O'Brien said.