By Kristopher Lancaster, Point Park News Service:
Sundays in the fall used to be a little more chaotic for Baron Batch.
The South Side resident spent parts of three seasons as a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers before being released at the end of training camp in August. Now away from the bright lights of the National Football League, Batch, 25, has turned his hobby of painting into an art career.
“Every piece that I’ve ever created has a certain place that is special in my soul,” Batch said. “I never create things simply to make them. I want them to have meaning. I want them to inspire and tell a story.”
Batch took up painting after a torn knee ligament cost him his rookie year with the Steelers in 2011. Since then, painting has become a full-blown passion, allowing him to have a smooth transition to life after football.
He recently partnered with Tornado Gallery in Lubbock, Texas, to sell prints of his work. His newest project, called the “Fearless” series, includes three paintings with 100 prints of each piece on sale at $225 each.
“What Baron has found is the ability to connect with people through his artwork,” said Larry Simmons, owner of the gallery. “Most people are concerned with the technicalities of the work, but Baron is more concerned with how to express his emotions. He embraces it fully.”
Heidi Simmons, manager of the Gallery, said Batch’s work is in high demand.
“If we get some of Baron’s work in, it’s gone pretty quick,” Simmons said. “I’m excited to have him here. When I first met him, I didn’t know anything about his background until someone mentioned to me that he was a football player. He’s just so invigorated by the art. He keeps pushing the envelope to learn, and there’s a story for everyone in it.
While Batch is a Texan at heart, having grown up in Midland before playing college football at Texas Tech in Lubbock, he has remained in Pittsburgh since his release from the Steelers. He has become a figure in the art scene in the city too. His work was featured at a charity art show in Pittsburgh last year, and next spring his new work is scheduled to appear in a local art show.
“It’s such a great city, and I can’t wait to share my new work with the following I have here,” Batch said. “I really do love Pittsburgh. That’s the main reason I decided to buy a house here.”
While he enjoyed success in his endeavor into the art world, Batch admittedly was self-conscious of his work when he started out.
“I think it was a combination of the fact that most of my artwork was very personal, and also that I never had any formal training,” Batch said. “But the more I did it, the more confident I became, and after I had my first show I remember thinking, ‘Ok, I can do this.’”
One person who never doubted Batch’s ability as an artist is his younger cousin Taylor Batch, 23, of Austin. She said when the two were younger Batch would draw pictures of her and his other relatives
“Baron has been a talented artist his whole life and is fully invested in whatever he is passionate about,” Taylor Batch said. “When we were younger, he would draw these stupidly funny caricatures of all of us and we thought it was no big deal. It’s amazing to see his art transform from a cartoon to an inspirational work of art.”
While his career in the NFL may be over, Baron Batch said he feels thankful for everything he went through. Despite the injuries and eventually being cut, he found his true passion in life.
He said he is doing exactly what he wants to do, and it’s something he says will live on forever.
“I look back on my torn ACL, and I’m thankful for it,” Batch said. “It gave me this passion, and this passion is something that will last me longer than football ever could.”