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Forty-one years ago in 1978 Bruce Baker, founder of Radius Garden, was a freshman at the University of Michigan School of Law. Although he never met his fellow classmate, Marty Lagina, they shared something in common: in the freshmen class yearbook their photos had inadvertently been transposed. Bruce Baker’s photo was identified as “Martin Lagina” and Marty Lagina’s photo was labelled “Bruce Baker.” Strangely, they never met each other during three years of law school.
Mislabeled photos of Bruce Baker, left, and Marty Lagina, right, from the 1978 University of Michigan School of Law freshmen yearbook.
Neither went on to practice law. Baker’s career led him to the software industry, the toy industry, and finally to lawn and garden and landscaping tools. Meanwhile Lagina became active in dozens of ventures including Michigan’s winery, Mari Vineyards, and the popular History Channel series, The Curse of Oak Island.
Their paths might never have crossed again except that Baker invented a unique shovel that has become very popular among metal detectors because of its ability to slice right through roots rather than bounce off of them as conventional shovels do.
Brand new Root Slayer Shovel being used for the first time.
Baker knew nothing at all about metal detecting until he began to see positive reviews of his Root Slayer Shovel online from metal detecting enthusiasts. One of Radius Garden’s sales agents made the suggestion that Baker should reach out to the producers of The Curse of Oak Island, because it’s basic mission is to unearth artifacts that would prove stories of ancient visitors and buried treasure on this Canadian island.
Months passed after that suggestion, but Baker finally did a little research to try to find out how to contact the producers. He was surprised to quickly find Marty Lagina’s name as co-producer with his brother, Rick, and even more surprised to find a current photo of Marty, which he immediately recognized as being the same person labelled “Bruce Baker” in his law school yearbook.
Never having met Marty, Baker didn’t feel comfortable trying to get in touch with him directly. Instead, after doing a little research, he discovered that Marty was an owner of Mari Vineyards on Michigan’s historic Old Mission Peninsula. With this information and the help of a very friendly vineyard staff member, Jenna Viega, Baker packed up a completely unsolicited Root Slayer Shovel and a Root Slayer Nomad in a box and shipped it to the Lagina brothers care of Mari Vineyard.
Nine months passed and Baker heard nothing back except that the package had been passed on to the Laginas. Then one day, Baker got a text from a friend saying he had better watch the Season 6 premier of The Curse of Oak Island. Baker was fascinated as he watched the program for the first time. The history, science, detective work, determination of the crew and even pure luck make for very compelling viewing. But, not having seen the Root Slayer for more than three quarters of the 90-minute program, Baker was starting to wonder if he’d been steered down the wrong path. Then suddenly, as if on cue, there was Rick Lagina with the Root Slayer Shovel comfortably in hand like an old friend.
Rick Lagina with a Root Slayer Shovel in The Curse of Oak Island, Season 6, Episode 1.
Without any endorsement or any agreement of any kind, the Root Slayer has since been used in other episodes and even a commercial for the show. Baker says “It’s a strange, wonderful, and extremely gratifying story. Maybe someday I’ll actually meet my ex-classmate!”
Closeup of Root Slayer Shovel plunging into soil in Alex Lagina’s hands on Season 6, Episode 8 of The Curse of Oak Island.
As a postscript to this story, Baker says he is almost as excited about being introduced to Mari Vineyards, which he visited for the first time this fall, as he is about the Root Slayer showing up on The Curse of Oak Island. “These are the first world class wines I’ve discovered being entirely estate grown and produced in Michigan,” says Baker, “You simply have to try the strangely named but delicious Troglodyte Rosso.”
For more information: Radius Garden, www.radiusgarden.com. Mari Vineyards, www.marivineyards.com. The Curse of Oak Island, https://www.history.com/shows/the-curse-of-oak-island.