From high school gridirons to signing days and college campuses to draft day and million dollar salaries, football has certain stages of it, with the NFL obviously being the pinnacle. But what happens after the NFL? For some, like current Oakland Raider Charles Woodson, he’s been playing almost the equivalent of being born until walking across the stage to accept a high school diploma. For others, like former Pittsburgh Steelers running back, Baron Batch, their tenure in the NFL is much more short-lived, riddled with various injuries and plenty of “what-if” questions.
Drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Texas Tech product looked to be a shoe-in to replace longtime third-down back, Mewelde Moore, due to his pass-blocking and receiving ability. However, he didn’t make it out of his first training camp unscathed, as he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee, effectively ending his season. It was during his down-time that he came to the realization that football, especially the NFL, is not forever.
During his rehabbing, he re-visited a childhood passion he had for visual arts, saying he would draw for hours, simply because he couldn’t afford paints.
“In grade school someone would ask what do you want to be, and I’d say ‘an artist,’ and they’d say, ‘Be realistic,’ and I’d say, ‘Well then, I want to be a football player,’ and they’d say, ‘Be realistic’,” Batch told Dan Gigler of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette.
He’s managed to do both, all by the age of 26.
He then put the wheels in motion on his master plan, of using his football salary to pay for a house, “modernize” it and then sell it, with the profits going directly to funding his business.
“Life is all about leverage,” he told Karlovits. “I used my time in football to pay for my house. Now, if I sell it, the money goes into my business.”
Exactly what type of business? He and five of his comrades, including another ex-Steeler, offensive lineman John Malecki, started Studio A.M., a firm that specializes in promoting and marketing as well as decorating.
His home is a prime example, as from out the outside, it looks as if it’s from the 1900’s era. The inside though is a different story, with a much more modern and artistic look, with industrial-style chandeliers and bookshelves made, from all things, pipes. That’s where Malecki comes in, as he grew up with family in the construction business. After Malecki was cut, he came by Batch’s place and two got to wondering what was next.
“I hit a crossroads with myself internally — do I want to walk the beaten path and run the rat race with the rest of the world, or do I want to jump out of the jar and do something different?”, Malecki said, according to Gigler.
The two refer to themselves as “creative hustlers” and Studio A.M. became their brainchild. One of his newest pieces is a large table made of reclaimed oak, and artistically decorated and designed with newspaper clippings from Pittsburgh’s past, including a Pirates schedule from the 60s.
Batch has the home listed for $115,000 with every penny being pumped into their business. And that business seems to be on the rise, as The Pittsburgh Symphony has just signed on with them as a big marketing client. They even have such former teammates as Brett Keisel purchasing their work.
It’s not as if Batch simply gave up his love for football and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He notes that he came to that realization as he was watching a recent preseason game, citing the stress of worrying about injury 24/7, losing your job to somebody, or having multiple 300-plus pounders trying to rip your head off every time he touched the ball.
“I loved my time with the Steelers but I had the opportunity to do something in my eyes, much bigger than football,” he told Gigler. “So when I walked away, I walked away knowing where I was going.”