Northwest Texas sits on the edge of Tornado Alley. Even on the most beautiful of days, there is still a sense of caution. Not knowing what tomorrow will hold in store. The fear of having the world turned upside down in the blink of an eye.
© 2011 Steelers Universe
Baron Batch had spent his entire life in Texas. There was always a concern over the weather, but his real Tornado Alley was found inside the windows.
He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. With four other siblings in a three bedroom house, Batch had only enough to get by. His dad met another woman on a business trip and most crushing of all, his mother, Joyce, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. As her conditioned worsened, Batch was forced to grow up fast and take on extra responsibilities, cooking and taking care of his siblings among others, most teenagers don’t have to face. Joyce lost her battle with the disease in 2003.
For some, that would be a bigger roadblock than any defensive tackle. Not for Baron. He used his anger and applied it to football. His “escape” as he puts it became an opportunity. Deciding to stay close to home and the environment Texas football brings, Lubbock and the Red Raiders of Texas Tech became his new home.
Freshman year was full of promise. He became the backup running back and scored his first touchdown. It seemed like the dark days were behind, that the storm had passed. For once, it seemed like Baron Batch could breathe easy.
Just like any storm, he was blindsided by the next hit. A broken ankle suffered on the practice field in late October ended his freshman campaign. Determined, Batch attempted to rehab. The storm wouldn’t let up. The rehabbing was all for not as the injury became infected resulting in multiple extra surgeries. Forced to redshirt the following 2007 season, his career and dream was in doubt.
He persevered, returning to become Tech’s leading rusher in 2008. Each step of the way, he found himself closer to reaching the NFL. This included capping off his last collegiate regular season game with over 110 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.
Draft day. The weekend every prospect circles on his calendar. It was safe to say he wasn’t going to be a Day One selection, but by the 7th round on Saturday, the angst started to seep in. Trying to get away from friends’ calls and the television by going fishing with his dad and younger brother, he put the decision up to God. Setting his cell phone away and saying a prayer, he immediately got a phone call with an unfamiliar area code. 412.
With Mike Tomlin on the other line, Baron Batch officially became a Pittsburgh Steeler.
Even with the lockout, Batch made noise in training camp. Not in the big city of Lubbock, but in the luscious Latrobe hills’ of St. Vincent College. Fans became enamored with his story, coaches with his ability.
August 9th was a damp, rainy day in Western Pennsylvania. A foreshadow to the next day for the rookie running back. Even over a thousand miles away from Texas, he couldn’t escape the storm. Late in practice, he tore his ACL.
His first thought: frustration. Who wouldn’t be? Just two days away from playing his first NFL game, to finally reach his destination after traveling a road with more potholes than downtown Pittsburgh, his season would end.
Even the merriest optimist would have a hard time staying positive. Reflecting on the situation, Batch managed to. Happy to just get some time to show what he could do and not suffering the injury too late in the year as to jeopardize next season, he found the silver lining.
Aside from not being able to play or practice, he will be able to sit and learn for a season. To him, that’s the most crucial aspect and the biggest negative outcome of the lockout. Many otherwise talented and roster-bound players are on the streets simply because the playbook was too overwhelming to learn in such a short time.
One thing is for sure. Baron Batch will be back next year. He’s been knocked down more times in his first 24 years than some will in a lifetime. With determination, he continues to get back up. Because the only way to overcome the storm is to weather it.