Twins Talk, August 14 14 Aug 15

Twins Talk

Getting Good Wood on the Ball!

Story and Photos by Gordy Jones

Last week I told you about a charity run: 15’s 5K. It was a real Perkins family effort, with Glen’s wife, Alisha, doing the organizing, planning, and giving the congratulations to the runners at the finish line. Glen was at both the starting line and at the reception on the Plaza, handing out medals with his mom and dad. I also told you about Glen, Phil Hughes, and Brian Duensing pulling up to the starting line in the bed of a pickup truck. That truck was being driven by a very interesting character. It was driven by Glen’s father-in-law, Kurt Weber.

Kurt has been well known in the South Metro as a popular science teacher and hockey coach at Lakeville South High School. But now Kurt is getting some national recognition for his passion for working with wood. It is something that he has done nearly all of his life. I was at his workshop the other day, and he told me, “I’ve always loved working with wood. I framed houses when I was 15 or 16, and that was where it all started. While playing sports in college, I got a job with a cabinet company that had some great craftsmen. They actually sat down with me and taught me some things. So in between the business of my daily schedule, I’d go to the cabinet shop and work there. I started to learn a lot, and I loved it.  But as life goes on, you get busy; I was married and had kids when I was young. I’d do a little; make some of my own furniture, but nothing real elaborate until seven or eight years ago. My kids are grown now, so I have a little more time to myself. I started really getting into it, and had time to do the quality work that I really wanted to.”

Kurt loves wood, and people love what he does with it. He transforms it into beautiful, handcrafted furniture with sports themes. There are bats, ball, hockey sticks and hockey boards in the mix. He’ll make them into tables, beds, dressers, poker tables, nearly anything imaginable. Most orders come to him by word-of-mouth, and most — but not all — are sports-related. “I have an e-commerce website, so people can order things. I’ve made beds for different baseball players. Jorge De La Rosa of the Colorado Rockies has twin boys, so I made them two beds. I’ve made things for Justin and Krista Morneau, the Cuddyers, Joe Nathan, a lot of the Minnesota Twins obviously, because you get to know them being around Glen and Alisha. I do things for the organizations, too. I’m talking to the Chicago Cubs right now. I’m also in discussions now with Major League Baseball for the All-Star Game of 2016. It will be a gift that they’re going to give to each All-Star player. It will be a personalized shadow box. We haven’t finalized it yet. It’s a little different, because I normally don’t do a lot of production work. They will all be the same, but a little individualized. They will each get an All-Star jersey in the shadow box. If that works out for them (MLB), I will get them all ready. And then, when the names are announced next summer, in one week I’ll literally have to get them finished; individualized, and shipped. It’s fun! It’s fun to do something different. It’s a big project, but I have some high school students who sometimes come out and help me.” He didn’t seem fazed by the short deadline on such a high-profile project.

Last year the folks at Xcel Energy Center approached Kurt and asked him to make a special gift for singer James Taylor, who would soon be performing there — a project not related to sports. A unique gift is given to every big star who performs there. “It was interesting. They didn’t tell me what they wanted. They just said build him a gift. I struggled at first because that is a more artsy-craftsy thing, and I’m used to building things with structure, like furniture.”

Kurt did a little research about Taylor’s life, dating back to his youth. He found out that Taylor’s song “Down on Copper Line” is sort of a musical autobiography. Kurt said, “All of my work is very personal. Whether it’s something for the Twins, or to an individual, it is all very custom. I try to build their life, or organizational theme, into the furniture. For James, ‘Down on Copper Line’ was a great song. He grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They were dirt poor, and everything was made of copper at the time.”

Then Kurt discovered that in 1979, James Olson of St. Paul made a custom guitar for James Taylor. Throughout the years, Taylor has had more guitars made by Olson, but that first one he really loves. Kurt decided to build a replica of it for James. But all of the metal components: strings, frets, pegs, etc., were made with copper. In the fret hole is an engraved picture of Taylor with his family as a little boy, and a light to accent it. Words to the song are on the guitar, and across the front is an engraving of what is now the James Taylor Bridge. In “Down on Copper Line” James sings about playing in the water under the bridge as a child, and the bridge was later named for him. 

When the Xcel people saw the finished project, they asked him to present it to Taylor himself. When I met Kurt, I felt like I had known him forever. He’s kind, funny, sincere, and just a regular guy. James Taylor must have thought the same thing, because what was supposed to be a two-minute gift presentation turned into a 30-minute social gathering which included their wives. Taylor was so impressed with the gift that he said he would keep the guitar in his studio, and then asked for Kurt’s contact information.

Kurt is a champion as he uses his talent to raise money for charities. Wounded Warriors and any of the Minnesota Twins’ charities are his soft spots — he has raised thousands of dollars for both. He built a Target Field poker table which made over $12,000 alone for the Twins Community Fund. He talks of his work with passion, and when he speaks about both the Twins players and his students, he does so with affection, as if they are extended family.  His students thought he was making millions in his craft because of the high-profile clients they hear about. But he talks to them, explaining that much of this is for charity. He said, “I told them; I was given a gift, and it’s important to share it with others. A lot of people say many things, but their actions don’t match. The kids ask why I still teach. I tell them I love teaching, I think it’s extremely important, and I don’t want to wait until I’m 70 to give back, so I do both now.”

Son-in-law Glen Perkins is pretty quiet around people he doesn’t know well. He is humble and unassuming, and can easily blend into a crowd. But he is fierce on the mound as he hurls a pitch at 95 miles-per-hour. I asked Kurt when he and Glen first met. He said, “It was before Alisha even dated Glen; he came over to the house as a friend. I looked at him and later asked Alisha who he was. She told me he was a pitcher for the U. I laughed and said, ‘No he’s not! He’s not an athlete.’ Now I know that he’s a gifted athlete. But we still joke about that!”