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Derek Jeter's 3000 Career Base Hits and Jesse Baker's Personal Account

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Why would a Tiger fan honor a Yankee?

By Jesse Baker

            

This started as all things do, merely as an idea.  And I feel I must first thank those who supported me in seeing this idea to fruition.  Foremost, the West Michigan Glass Arts Center, the family there I am blessed to be a part of, the Board of Directors and our Executive Director, Rebecca Boase.  Without the support I found within the West Michigan Glass Art Center in Kalamzoo, an idea, merely, it might have remained. 

I must additionally thank all those on whom I leaned for direction, advice, guidance and support throughout the process.  I knew full well when I pitched the idea that I was indeed getting myself in slightly above my head.  Without that support I found from a growing family of WMGAC artists, I would too have struggled, to see this to fruition. 

I can't thank you all quite enough. It was with all of your support, I set out to make something special for a truly unique and special human being.
It took countless hours of thought, plotting, research, rethinking and starting over in the days and weeks leading up to Jeters milestone 3000th hit. Seeing more clearly I would not have access to a kiln until after our summer camp schedule concluded, I aimed to capture the actual image of the 3000th hit itself. Only then, on July 9th, did the design and layout begin to find its final form. From there, the real work began.

The design now firmly established, a regulation size kiln casting of home plate with raised/embossed image of his 3000th hit was visualized.  The process as a whole was quite involved, to say the least, if not borderline confusing at times. 

First, a wood positive needed to be cut, carved, whittled and polished.  This first step, the wood portion, was the most time intensive portion of a painstakingly long process.  But I knew full well these 25 pieces, how well they were finished and placed would most determine the end result and success of each subsequent step getting there.  These pieces were assembled, glued and placed within a jig designed to leave little margin for error in the next step of the process.  A clay replica, the size and mass of the finished piece is formed, to press the wood into, creating a clay negative.  The wood clay form is removed after the press and the clay touched up carefully for final finish.  A new larger wood form is applied to the wood platform and the plaster is then carefully mixed and poured over the clay negative.  The fast setting plaster takes  about 16 minutes to harden and almost ready for removal.  Better safe than sorry, wait until you feel no warmth I’m told, so I did.  With each step of this process, the last few taking place over a very long four day weekend, anxious anticipation grew, at times even momentary trepidation of blow out or failure.  This next step in the process was one likely, I most feared, getting the clay out of the plaster.  Turned out to be about the easiest step along the way.  I discovered that firm prying action with the help of Murphy’s Oil Soap popped it out like butter.  The plaster positive needed minimal clean up to get all remaining clay removed prior to placement in the kiln.  It was then brought up very slowly in the kiln over a period of 24 hours to a suitable temperature of 1500 degrees to be found ready to accept hot billet out of our furnace.  With the help of Ben Greene, we made approximately 10 billets weighing three to four pounds each filling the plaster positive over a period of a few hours.  Each billet was prepared carefully to prevent bubbles and imperfections, allowing each to melt in to the mold as applied until the plaster was filled.   Again, better safe than sorry!  An annealing cycle was set that would near guaranteed success.  The piece was brought down slowly, or annealed, over a period of 7 days.  After anxiously awaiting its removal from the kiln, at last, it’s broken out of the plaster mold and finally begins to reveal itself as a success.  The glass was then soaked and scrubbed to remove all but the most stubborn of grit from the back and sides of the glass exposed to the plaster.  Removing all the remaining grit, which might have happened over a period of weeks, I chose personally not to fret over.  A bit of grit showing through this piece seemed to make sense to me, a baseball fan ought understand. 

     
Jesse and Tiffany Hard At Work              The Wood Mold                                         Creating the Bat Stand

So, here is indeed, a massive, quite impressive, nearly thirty-six pound chunk of glass in the shape of home plate.  It turned out, wow!  O.k., now… how do I present it?  I can’t just hand it over as is!  Due to the generosity of another, thank you again, I was able to sit in on a four week metal arts class where I learned a bit about forging, plasma cutting and welding.  At the start of this, when presenting what I’d like to try and do for the metal base, I was told again I was quite possibly, crazy.  Wasn’t the first time in this process I’d heard that and having pulled off the glass portion I wasn’t likely to back away so easily from something as forgiving as metal.  I do have to give the guys at the Metal Arts Center props, glassblowers like it hot, blacksmiths like it crazy hot!  It took all of the first two classes to hammer out two nearly identical eight inch steel bats.  The last two weeks were then utilized to design and finish a base using those bats as braces to hold this massive piece of glass up.  A lot of hard work, sweat, blood, no tears, but it too, turned out nonetheless.  Six coats of clear coat and some creative packaging yet to be figured out and it’s done!

One last remaining problem though! How to get it to a man who’s nearly untouchable?  I’m not going to say we formed an exploratory committee, but nearly so in the weeks that followed its completion.  We explored nearly every avenue any of us could think of.  There were times in the process I’d heard from others when asked how we’re going to get it to Derek Jeter, that I just might have to take it to NY and drop it off.  I think up until that last time I heard it, I jokingly said, “yeah, just might have to”.  The last time I heard it, I knew that’s what I had to do!  I couldn’t chance shipping the coolest thing I’ve ever made and have it arrive in four pieces.  It is made of glass remember and weighs thirty six pounds.  Doing the math, it’d cost about the same to ship the two as gas to New York City and back.   So again with the help of others I have to thank.  A number of family members and friends contributed to help with the costs of the trip and without your help, I would have made it there fine; I just might not have made it back. I Thank You All! 

For those of you who might have wondered given my best explanation of the process. This was indeed my first. First kiln casting, first metal piece, my first attempt at really trying to create something that might earn from my own perspective, at least, the forbearing  knowledge that I am indeed an artist.  I personally acknowledge that my own stubbornness and even a bit of an aching heart got me through, to see it to the end.  I have been working with glass now for about two years steadily, in nearly all forms, increasingly.  And I’m anxious to continue to try and spread my wings, utilizing those as well other portions of myself to continue to strive to attain that title, of an artist, expressing myself as best I can through this medium I’ve chosen, or rather, that chose me. 

My trip to New York City itself was fairly uneventful, my first time seeing it, I squeezed in as much as I could in the 30 hours I was there.  A Yankee game, they won, 5-0 over the Rays, Battery park, Lady Liberty, Wall Street, Broadway, ridiculous parking costs and insane traffic within the city.  I explored nearly every bridge and tunnel, the World Trade Center work site and St. Pauls’ Cathedral. I experienced the absolute best roadside halal you can dream up for only five bucks, and last but not least, the 9/11 memorial museum.  My only regret is not being able to get in to see the new 9/11 memorial itself that opened days before on the 10th Anniversary.  The museum alone is worth the trip and brought out one of my, aptly given nicknames, tears were streaming before I was halfway through.  Plan ahead and get your tickets now if you’re planning a trip to NYC in the coming months.

Those of you who don’t know anything about Derek Jeter and his accomplishments on the baseball field are definitely not baseball fans and likely won’t be anytime soon.  But whether a baseball fan or not, all who read this should be aware of Dereks’ presence and his excellence in achievements off the field.  He has set the bar extremely high, across the board, but where it ought to be set for players and persons of his stature in my mind.  I invite you all to read about his achievements and continued involvement in several communities, including our own here in West Michigan at www.turn2foundation.org.  They can explain it in far better detail than I.  But I wanted to do what little I could to personally thank Derek Jeter for being the exceptional person he is, on, but more so, off, the baseball field.   Thank You Derek!

And finally for those of you unaware of what we do here at the West Michigan Glass Art Center, for me personally over these past few months, it’s been a place where dreams come true.  Just to find myself now nearly personally accepting the fact I might indeed be an artist, let alone finding myself consumed by two packages and delivering them personally to Park Avenue in New York City.  Even I would’ve had a hard time dreaming that up not too long ago!  Molten glass is quite addictive I’ll warn you all, any glass worker will tell you.  I wonder if it’s a place that might find its teeth in you too? 

 

~Jesse Baker

          
The Clay                                                       Mixing the Plaster                    The Plaster Poured                                   The Plaster Frame Coming Off


                   
Plaster Pop                                                 Wood and Clay After                 Clean Up Process                            In the Kiln

           
Making The Billet                                      Filling the Plaster                               Almost Full!                                       Full and Holding at 1500 Degrees!   

                                                                                
                                                                                 Finished Home Base Plate for Derek Jeter!
                                  

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