WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. ― Growing up in North Carolina, Jeff Robinson came of age in the 1980s playing baseball.
His hero on the diamond was Don Mattingly, an All-Star first baseman for the New York Yankees. Unfortunately, the Yankees never won a World Series title while Mattingly was with the team, but by the mid-90s the most successful franchise in Major League history - 27 world titles and 40 American League pennants - systematically built the foundation to reclaim their past glory.
A core group of players - Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada - combined with a string of big-name free agents - Paul O'Neill, Wade Boggs, David Wells, David Cone and Roger Clemens - to win four world titles in a five-year span from 1996 to 2000.
"It's no different than a Major League (Baseball) roster. You have some old guys that always have to be replaced and bulls that just aren't quite good enough, so we go to the claimer wire and try to go to the draft and reload every year."
Robinson never played ball beyond high school.
However, his Robinson Bucking Bulls operation mirrors the same approach used by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
"It's no different than a Major League (Baseball) roster," said Robinson, when asked how he's able to restock his bull pen from one year to the next. "You have some old guys that always have to be replaced and bulls that just aren't quite good enough, so we go to the claimer wire and try to go to the draft and reload every year."
Robinson said that aside from bulls that have already proven themselves in previous seasons, he's looking for youngsters that he feels will mature into Built Ford Tough Series-quality bucking bulls.
And he's done a fine job of it for the past five years or so.
This year, he leads all contractors with 53 outs ― 13 of which have come in the championship round ― not including the five bulls he had in last weekend's 15/15 Bucking Battle. Robinson's Meat Hook, Stanley FatMax, Lightmaker's Rango, New Holland PowerStar (formerly Quiet Riot) and Delco all competed in the battle.
Tom Teague is second with 41 total outs, including eight in the championship round.
Robinson is the three-time defending Stock Contractor of the Year and in the past three years he's led the way in total outs - 367 (2012), 514 (2011) and 509 (2010) - and Championship Round outs - 64 (2012), 94 (2011) and 118 (2010).
In 2011 and 2010, he nearly doubled the final round outs of any other contractor.
And in the past 10 seasons, including 2013, which is only one month into a 10-month long season, he's recorded 2,276 outs at BFTS events alone, not including the Touring Pro Division events, of which he produces 12 to 15 a year.
He's also know for having a large enough pen that during the early part of the season he can afford to house half his bulls in North Carolina and the other half west of the Mississippi River and still supply an equally rank truckload of bulls at every BFTS event regardless of whether it takes place in Winston-Salem, N.C., Oklahoma City or Sacramento, Calif.
"Over the break we'll try to find eight or 10 new bulls and during the summer break we try to do the same thing," he said, adding, "keep everything fresh and hopefully everything will work out.
"We try to add all year long, but during the breaks I'll take a little more time than normal ― do a little more research and we try to come up with one or two good ones."
In addition to five bulls in the first of seven 15/15 Bucking Battles - he would have had six had it not been for one that is recovering from injury - he had three of the 10 bulls in the Championship Round this past weekend.
He said Western Hauler and Johnny Rocker are two new bulls who have shown promise.
No, the lifelong Yankee fan did not name a bull after the Yankees' rival John Rocker, who pitched against the Pinstripes in a losing effort during the 1999 World Series. Robinson bought both bulls from Donnie Gay's father Neal.
"I thought they were pretty impressive for their first outs at a Built Ford Tough (Series event)," Robinson said, following the opening round.
Like human athletes, some animal athletes respond to certain environments and situations.
Robinson said that while he would never classify his feed and exercise program as better than the competition, he stands behind the repetition they develop.
He explained that it's based on the familiarity of feeding and exercising his bulls at the same time each day and that, of course, each bull also gets personal attention.
"A lot of it is chemistry," said Robinson, who added that it can take six months and, in some cases up to a year to acclimate when they change from one ranch and one system to another.
That's proven to be especially true in situations where the bulls have transitioned from Canadian conditions to the much more mild conditions at his North Carolina-based ranch.
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