Baker Looks for the Big Catch

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Baker racing past the defense

After four seasons and more than 50 career receptions in the National Football League, Jets tight end Chris Baker seemingly had forgotten how to catch. 

During the waning hours of daylight on a picturesque June afternoon, the fifth-year veteran came up empty handed on roughly 20 attempts. To his credit, he wasn't supported by his customary Green and White teammates. Rather, his only chance of success involved luck, patience, foul squid, and dead minnows. Baker is an avid fisherman who - sounding like the true sportsman that he is - had a very rare off-day on the water.

"You know what they say, a bad day fishing beats a good day at the office," said Baker. "Actually, for us a good day at the office means a win, so I guess that doesn't make sense!"

One glimpse inside Baker's residence on the southern shore of Long Island answers all questions in regards to what his true off-field passion is.  Whether it's the half dozen enormous tropical fish tanks or the below-sea-like bathroom covered entirely by mirrors and undersea décor, it's obvious that his now 22-year-long hobby is an obsession.

"I started fishing when I was four or five years old," said Baker, who averages two ventures a week and four if he's blessed with the free time.  "My grandfather took me fishing in Mississippi and ever since then I fell in love with it and continue to stay into it."

Stepping into Baker's backyard not only reveals a waters edge refuge of tranquility and relaxation, it also serves as his personal boat launch. His presently unnamed boat sits yards from the entrance to the Jones Beach Inlet.  Baker bought the 20-footer in the early months of 2005 to enhance his angling craze after spending the majority of his intense fishing life in the freshwaters surrounding his alma mater Michigan State.

Baker, a former Spartan tight end, set school records for touchdowns, yards, and receptions at his position. This year, Baker is set to return to the field after missing the second half of 2005 with a broken ankle. Prior to the abrupt season-ending incident, Baker had started every game and was on pace for a career year.   His recovery is going much better than his recent fortune on the water.

During his time off last year, Baker found an additional hobby to pass the time and mentally speed up his lengthy recovery process. Fishing and traveling (he used to own an apartment in the Dominican Republic) were no longer options, so Baker turned to online shopping, most notably, the online bidding sort. Seeing how he couldn't even walk at the time, he ironically fell for footwear. He now owns hundreds of shoes – almost all Nikes and mostly never worn. Baker even has an entire closet dedicated exclusively to Nike's most popular line, Air Jordan's. If that's not impressive enough, Baker designated five pairs of the same style, all-white Nikes to be used solely for fishing.

Although the day on the open waters marked a zero on his fishing scoreboard, Baker still achieved his goal of relaxation and enjoyment. Upon returning home, Baker turned to one last shot at redemption as he hauled up a mysterious tied-off line from his dock. The end of the rope revealed a crab trap that rests on the bottom of the inlet, structured to snare an occasional keeper. Unfortunately, his luck hadn't changed as the trap's inhabitants weren't large enough to save, but that didn't seem to damage his spirits one bit. Just 15 minutes after docking his nameless boat, Baker was back out on the water searching for that still-absent catch of the day.

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