Baseball memorabilia now on display in Naples

Reporter: Taylor Wirtz Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:

A never-before-seen collection is now on display in Southwest Florida and it honors baseball greats.

Jay Baker’s wife, Patty, told him decades ago that he worked too much and needed to get a hobby. So, this diehard Yankees fan started collecting memorabilia. And, 26 years later, it’s become more than just a little hobby.

I have to like pay Patty off like maybe a piece of jewelry or something to get another wall. And we’re running out of walls,” Baker said. 

Some of Yankee greats’ most personal items and prized possessions are now on display. This includes legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle, and the Yankees organization as a whole. From home plate to MVP Trophies to the hat Lou Gehrig wore during his famous farewell speech – it’s all being displayed in Naples.

“I’ve met people here…they had tears in their eyes because they grew up in the Bronx. And they grew up as Yankee fans, and all of a sudden, they stand here and see all this stuff. And they’ve never seen it. And it’s so exciting brings them back to their childhood,” said Baker.

While these items haven’t been easy to tack down, Baker says it’s the thrill of the hunt that makes the difference. “Oh, of course. That’s a huge amount of the fun getting things you know,” he said.

With this exhibit sitting so close to JetBlue Park and Red Sox spring training, Baker does have a message for Red Sox fans. “You’re the greatest rival we have. And it’s very exciting. And we have your greatest player of all time, Babe Ruth,” said Baker. 

Even with the intense rivalry, Baker is not shocked to see Red Sox fans making their way to and through the exhibit. Because it isn’t just a shrine to his beloved Yankees, but it’s a love letter to the sport of baseball and an ode to the legends the sport has built.

“I think it’s one of the things that makes baseball so great when you have these superheroes, you know that people remember, and they’re very special in your life,” Baker said. “It’s put together with a tremendous amount of love. And I think both of us are so proud now that we can share it with people.”

And he wants to share it with you, no matter who you’re rooting for.

The exhibition Baseball Heroes: Works from the Jay H. Baker Collection will be on display at Artis-Naples, The Baker Museum in Naples until May 15. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and active-duty military. Kids under 17 get in for free. Additional information can be found at the Artis-Naples website.

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