Not Your Average News Week

Zach Smith, ReporterIt’s not very often in the course of a workweek that I talk to two NBA players and a billionaire CEO, but then this wasn’t exactly a typical week.

Monday, I had the fortune of tagging along with SBJ Editor Eric Olson on our spotlight interview for the upcoming issue of Springfield Business Journal.  We made a short drive across town to Lil’ Anglers LLC where CEO Ralph Duda III and his younger brother and Chief Operating Officer Marty Duda told us the company’s story.

Ralph’s passion for discussing the business was apparent, but also tempered with some real-world approachability. He may have been humbled earlier by Marty during their morning game (or five) of pool, the loser of which must crawl under the table to make a notch in the winner’s scoreboard. At last count, Ralph thinks his brother is up 28-6.

Two of the partners in Lil’ Anglers and its parent company, Anything Possible LCC, are NBA big-men. One is a childhood friend of Ralph’s from right here in Springfield, Anthony Tolliver, currently a power forward for the Detroit Pistons. The other is Anthony’s former teammate from their time on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster, now retired two-time All-Star Brad Miller. Ralph was adamant that I speak to them about their involvement in the business.

Anthony Tolliver

Anthony Tolliver

I was naturally receptive to this idea, but a little skeptical that we could make contact before the story’s deadline. Anthony had a home game that evening and was on the road in the morning. Brad is usually on the road as well for his outdoor show, “Country Boy Outdoors.” So, when I called them up and got two voicemail inboxes in a row, I wasn’t surprised. What did surprise me was less than five minutes later when I received a call from Brad in California, and almost as soon as I introduced myself, another incoming call from Anthony on his way to the gym for a pre-game workout. Anyone who says professional athletes are inaccessible hasn’t met these two.

Brad Miller

  Brad Miller

Less than 24 hours after speaking with two professional basketball players, I was standing in the presence of some 150 outdoor media professionals and an 86,000-gallon, two-story aquarium as part of a sneak peak at what will be America’s Wildlife Museum and Aquarium, located next door to Bass Pro. I’ll avoid any unprofessional use of adjectives and just paraphrase what the museum’s director of live exhibits told me: what I saw was just the tip of the iceberg. When the space that was the Wonders of Wildlife reopens next year, after almost nine years of being closed, I anticipate that visitors will find it worth the wait.

John Morris

John Morris

For me, the highlight of the evening was a brief but rare opportunity to talk to Bass Pro founder and CEO John Morris – a man presently tied in estimated worth with Donald Trump. He made some big announcements earlier in the evening and had already granted several interviews, but he didn’t seem bored and didn’t hurry things along. He was happy to talk to me about the future of the museum, and why keeping some aspects of the construction project local was important to him. He made a point of reminding me that more previews for the local media were on the horizon. “We’ll be having you come back, if you’re interested,” he said.

Who wouldn’t be?

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