Friday, September 26, 2008

Best of 14: Mike Baxter

This is an interview with Mike Baxter for publication in the ECDO Newsletter. The name of the column is "Best of 14" because the idea is to conduct the interview while playing a best of 14 match with the interviewee. Unfortunately we only had time for ten games, and we split them, 5 to 5.

Name: Mike Baxter
City, St: Auburn WA

Where were you born and raised? I was born in Fairfield California in Travis Air Force Base. Your father was in the air force? Yes, and I was raised in Tacoma.

How long have you been playing darts?
Since December of 2006. And before that you'd never played darts? I played for a few months in college. My roommate had a dartboard, and we played cricket. I didn't even play 01 until I started playing with the league but um, yeah, we just screwed around. I don't know what got him to buy a board but he got a board and tungsten darts and the whole deal and instead of sitting on the couch watching the game we'd play darts and watch the game on television. So fewer than two years? Yeah. But you've picked up a tremendous amount of skill in that time. I guess so (chuckles).

You play Super A?
Yeah, my first season wasn't as successful as I would have liked it. But uh, first season in Super A anyways. You've never played B League? No, my first league was A, spring of 2007.

Whose responsible for getting you into darts? Id have to say, what happened was, in December 2006 we had a big wind storm and my power was knocked out for a couple days and I was looking for something to do. For whatever reason I thought of my darts, I still had my darts which in my junk drawer and I don't know how I ended up at Murphy's but I ended up at Murphy's. I think maybe it was the closest place off the freeway that had steel tip darts or something. And uh, so it turned out that that Friday night the power was out on University way and the Friday night dart crowd ended up at Murphy's where I was. And I remember Paul and Elisa, uh, and it was just you know when anybody new shows up at a shoot everybody is very inviting and wants you to keep coming back. I did. you know I always liked throwing darts before and I just found everybody to be friendly and inviting. I would say its probably that Friday night crowd that hangs out at the Knarr.

Do you still have those darts? No, no I loaned them to a girl and she subsequently lost them. Do you remember what kid of darts they were? Yeah, they were 19 gram Maverick Wrangler darts and they had a scallop in the middle. I don't throw scalloped darts anymore though.

Would you say that you play for fun or do you play to win?
Um I'll say winning is fun. No, other than that there were plenty of nights at the Knarr where I had to play for fun, out of not winning. Do you still have fun even if you don't win? Yeah I do, honestly I do but it is very fun to win. Have you every played and your performance was so poor that you just felt disgusted and you just didn't wanna play darts anymore? No. I would say there re some nights where I question why I play darts but it has never been an issue of I wanna quit darts.

What kind of darts do you use?
Phil Taylor 24 gram Purists. How do you configure them? Medium stem? Nylon stem? Um, an extra long aluminum shaft and slim flights. Did you play around with different configurations before you settled on that or did you choose that for a reason? No not really, um, of course the other thing that kinda got me hooked on darts, you know after playing for a few months I found all sorts of dart videos on youtube and there was a match, there was a world championship final between Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld and that was kinda my first introduction to Phil Taylor. And I thought well if this guy is such a champ 13 times over I just wanna experience the dart he throws to see what it is, you know of course its not the dart its the dart player, but I was curious to see what he threw and so I bought a set and they worked for me and I have not really deviated or changed since.

Have you ever used any other darts than those? Yeah. I mean not on a regular basis but I tinkered. I uh, I got a set of hand me down Black Widows from my step dad, the Fansteels that I keep forgetting to bring and I received a couple of sets of darts from Glen Huff. Hammerheads. Bottelsen Hammerheads and uh Harrows Eric Bristows. But I always come back to the Taylors.

How many nights a week do you play darts competitively?
Did you say competitively? During the fall I would say three: Tuesday singles in Tacoma, ECDO on Thursday, and of course the Knarr blind draw on Friday. How many nights a week do you play just for practice? Not counting?... Lets see I got four days... I try to do two or three of these days and I like to do four but... So the only two leagues you participate in are the Tacoma singles and the ECDO? Yeah, SSDA is the South Sound Dart Association. How would you compare SSDA to ECDO? Its uh... SSDA is more, obviously SSDA is more singles oriented. They only do singles and doubles and so I view that as being more competitive whereas ECDO, 4 to 6 person team is more of a social activity. I mean its competitive, people want to win, but there's a lot more BS'ing, joking around.

Do you have any heroes in the dart world?
Phil Taylor. Anybody else? No, but I like James Wade I think he's the next big thing in darts. What do you like about Phil Taylor so much? Why is he your hero of darts? Because he is head and shoulders above everybody else. We have guys at the local level who are really good shots and win most of the time, but there's not the one guy who wins everything. But Phil Taylor wins everything at the highest level. Why do you think James Wade is the next big thing in darts? Because of his age. He's what? 24? 25? Something like that and um he's already, the last three majors, he's finished runner up to Phil Taylor and so if not for Phil Taylor he would have had three more majors under his belt. So just the fact that he's sso young and he's got 20 years ahead of him.

As far as your own game goes, what do you feel could use the most improvement? My scoring. More tons. So you feel like your doubles are better than your high shots? I feel my finishing game is better than my scoring game. Too inconsistent on the scoring, a little more consistent on the finishing.

What is your practice philosophy?
Um, try to do something everyday. Even if its just a few darts at the 20. Even if thats all that time allows you, and then if you do have time for practice then try to do it uninterrupted. So in other words, don't let people or your dog interrupt you kind thing? Well you know, don't be doing the wash or laundry or something so you have these intermittent breaks every so often or something. Just section off a block of time where you can turn up some tunes and throw some darts. So you listen to music while you practice? Yeah, just for background and you know it's, uh, what the atmosphere is in the bar.

Lets say its a Wednesday night and you've got nothing at all that you need to do so you can dedicate yourself to practice. How much time do you spend and what is your routine? I would say 2 to 4 hours, depending on how early I start. Sometimes I get a later start but uh, I try to hit every segment on the board once a day so I go fat singles, skinny singles, doubles, and triples. And I am shooting bull in between each of those. How many shots at the bull in between? Until i hit it. I move on when I hit what I am shooting at. When you say bull do you mean double bull or any bull? Uh, well like when I am doing my round of singles, fat singles and skinny singles, I try to hit single bull but if I'm doing doubles and triples I try to hit a double bull before I move on. If after a round of fat singles and you are trying for a single bull but you hit a double bull, do you keep trying till you hit the single bull? No, most times when your throwing at bull in competition, unless you're finishing, its like your percentage of hitting the single is greater.

Why do you practice the skinny singles? Do you ever throw at the skinny singles in competition? No, so I can hit whatever I want to on the board, that's basically it. You never are shooting at the skinny singles but if you want to have command of the board you should be able to hit every segment if you want. So anyways, that's kind of like the leg work or heavy lifting. For practice, like routines, I'll do the practice games on SEWA. 100 darts at the 20, 50 darts at the bull, or Bob Anderson's doubles game so on and so forth.

How much time do you spend online? Do you consider yourself to be a part of the online dart community? Yes, on SEWA, I'd say I check in at least once a day and uh maybe I spend like 30 minutes to half an hour at a time checking out posts. if there's nothing new or interesting you know... Do you go to any other forums other than SEWA? I drop in on Superstars of Darts every once in a while but other than that no. Like I never even posted to Superstars. It is the SEWA equivalent over in England. Do you have your own dart website? or dart blog? No.

What is your general philosophy toward the game and toward other players?
Um, well, as Bob Ross says it really is just a stupid bar game, and so I try to keep that in mind. I try not to take it too seriously but at the same time we go to tournaments and we take part in league because we all have some competitive thing to feed. So I try not to take it too seriously but I apply myself enough to where I can be as good a player as I can anyway.

Who are your favorite partners for league play and tournaments?
Id' have to say Brian Smith because we've won two tournaments. We won the South Sound Winter Open cricket doubles, and we won the Tacoma Open. That was 2008 I think. Uh, boy you know that was last year 2007. The South Sound Winter Open. But then you won just recently at the Tacoma Open? Yeah, that was July of this year. Was that also Cricket? No, 501. Open Doubles.

How do you spend your time away from darts?
I just keep up on current events. I've played guitar off and on for ten years. When the urge hits me I try to exercise, but that has been too few and far between. And then I teach skiing at Snoqualmie in the winter. Alpine skiing.

What would you say is your greatest achievement in darts?
Well I haven't achieved anything as far as singles go. I have not won any tournaments, so I'd have to day that first doubles win with Brian. Have you ever hit a Ton-80? Yeah. How often? Depends, maybe a handful a week on my betters weeks. If I am having an off week maybe less than that. Have you ever hit a dead eye? Once. I never thought I would. You know is a lot harder, you have a lot less space to work with. Was it a cricket match? No just at home throwing at the board.

Whats the furthest you've ever traveled for darts?
The uh, either, I don't know the distances. Either Tri-Cities, Vancouver or Portland, take your pick. I don't know which one's furthest.

Do you have any closing statements or have anything you want to say?
No, I just appreciate the league for what it is and the friendships that come about I can easily say that prior to playing darts to now I have fifty-plus new acquaintances. Friends and acquaintances.


Tommo said...

Great couple of posts. I've never hit a dead eye - good question to ask.

Barnacle said...


Would you like the text of the "trimmed" version of the interview?

Zeeple said...

Tommo I appreciate the comment and I am glad you enjoyed the posts. I have been feeling the writing bug lately so this always gets my blogging going again.

Barn, I appreciate the offer but I don't need the trimmed version. But I would like a link to the online version of the newsletter as well as a few copies of the paper version. I can never grab them and bring them home with me because I am always on my cycle!

Barnacle said...

Here's the link to the PDF of the newsletter, Vol I, Issue 1:

Haven't yet had time to create the associated HTML page or add a link in the main navigation.