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Plainville’s new landmark — a gargantuan baseball bat

By Taryn Plumb
Globe Correspondent / April 22, 2012
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PLAINVILLE — All across the country, from Bangor, Maine, to Bemidji, Minn., giant Paul Bunyan statues loom over roadsides.

And if one of them ever happened to need a Louisville Slugger instead of the fabled lumberjack’s requisite ax, they’d find one just their size in Plainville.

Standing sentinel over the Plainville Athletic League fields on Everett Skinner Road is a 24-foot-tall baseball bat, freshly carved from the remains of a Northern red oak tree by local chainsaw artist Jesse Green.

The town’s new, neck-craning landmark was completed earlier this month, and was officially unveiled during the league’s opening day parade and ceremony on April 14.

“It’s something you wouldn’t expect in the middle of the woods in Plainville,” said Chris Murphy, the nonprofit league’s facilities and safety manager, who had the idea to turn the dying tree into a colossal baseball homage.

In addition to honoring the town’s long tradition of youth sports, Murphy sees it as giving new life to a once-majestic tree.

Still rooted and estimated at between 80 and 100 years old, the oak was recently deemed unsafe because it was sporadically dropping large branches; an arborist surmised that soil compression from the parking lot and the adjacent road had, over the years, stressed its roots, Murphy said.

A monstrosity of a tree — 80 to 90 feet tall, and 12 feet in diameter — it had become somewhat of a town landmark itself.

“It witnessed every single game, every single happening, every single win” over the athletic league’s 57-year history, said Murphy. “It would have been terrible to just cut it down.”

And considering it was right beside the fields, where roughly 400 to 450 kids from ages 4 to 18 play baseball and softball every season, the idea of a bat came naturally.

Plus, Murphy said, its “nice straight trunk” lent itself to that shape.

Green, of Medway, who goes by the fitting nickname “the Machine,” started the massive job on April 9, working for hours at a time with different sizes and styles of chainsaws, often perched in the bucket of a boom lift. Finer work included sanding, staining, and sealing.

And tagging along with him? A film crew.

Green, who creates chainsaw sculptures big and small, cartoonish, lifelike, or artsy, will have his own TV show, “American Chainsaw,” which is expected to air on the National Geographic Channel next year. His work on Plainville’s giant slugger — along with the carved sculpture’s unveiling, and the opening day parade for this season’s 40-plus teams — is expected to be featured in one of the eight episodes planned for the series.

Because the show is still being filmed, representatives of the National Geographic Channel would not allow Green to be interviewed for this story.

But Murphy was full of praises for the brawny, bearded Green — who is not unlike Paul Bunyan himself in appearance.

“He’s very much an artist,” Murphy said. “Never did he have a picture of a bat. It was 100 percent out of his head. It went right out of his head onto the tree.”

For his work, the league will pay Green $1,500, a fee it is raising through various means, including the sale of miniature embossed bats, and T-shirts with Green’s likeness. Likewise, two local companies provided free services for the project: Tree Tech Inc. of Foxborough chopped off the top two-thirds of the tree (roughly 60 feet), and Brodie Toyota-Lift of Lawrence donated the use of the 40-foot boom lift that Green used to craft his sculpture.

“It was very much a coming together of the community that made this happen,” said Murphy.

That spirit of volunteerism is a hallmark of Plainville, according to Andrea Soucy, chairwoman of the town’s Board of Selectmen. Another athletic area on School Street, dubbed the “field of dreams” complex, was built by volunteers, as was the town’s senior center, she said.

“It’s like an extended family around here,” Soucy said. “People are very supportive of one another.”

She called the enormous bat, meanwhile, a “wonderful idea that serendipitously came together.”

And while it hasn’t yet appeared on any of the number of roadside attraction websites, such as, keep a watch for its inclusion, based on what Murphy described as a “stunning” reaction to the sculpture.

Most notably, cars both local or just passing through stop to unload wide-mouthed youngsters or smartphone picture-snappers.

“They slow down, they gawk, they rear-end each other in traffic,” he quipped. “It’s getting Plainville on the map a little bit more.”

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