A little over a year ago running back Baron Batch was in the home stretch of his rehab, working his way back from a torn ACL suffered months prior in training camp.
He would spend his mornings in the Steelers' training and weight room, pushing himself to the limit to make sure he was back to full strength when camp rolled around.
After workouts he would head back to his apartment, and during a time when not many teammates were in town, he would search for ways to pass the time. He loved to write, but wanted a new challenge.
So as he sat in his apartment, staring at blank walls, it hit him. He needed some artwork to liven his place up. Rather than go the normal route and shop for it, he decided to do what he loves most, challenge himself to create it.
"I have always been artistic," said Batch. "When I was doing rehab last offseason I would be done around noon and then have all day with nothing to do. I needed a hobby and I decided to paint my own stuff.
"It snowballed into it being a huge part of my life. I am always changing the styles I do. People started asking if they could buy it from me, so it's really cool. There are people who appreciate art and don't care that I play football."
Batch's hobby has turned into a full-blown love of art, and even landed him as the featured artist in the 35th Annual Lubbock Arts Festival, April 12-14 in Texas. There will be over 100 different artists displaying their talents, and he is honored to have been selected as the featured artist with such little experience under his belt.
"I was really flattered when I found out they wanted me to be the featured artist," said Batch, who hails from Midland, Texas. "I am really excited. I have been working on a new series of art over the past month to get it ready for it. I have a sketchbook full of things. I have about 30 things I haven't even created yet. Whenever I do a new series, it's not hard to come up with ideas because I already have those. I am constantly adding to that. I pulled out some I liked, ones I thought people in west Texas would appreciate."
One of the pieces he is proudest of depicts the drought that has been plaguing west Texas the past few years. Instead of taking the approach of showing the damage the drought has caused, Batch created a piece that celebrates the end of it, which he named, "Death of Drought." He even spoke to a group of farmers in Texas, through the Plains Cotton Growers Association, sharing with them his own personal story of persevering and surviving to help inspire them. He is hoping the painting will inspire even more.
"When you look at the painting, it's a man standing under his windmill with his hands up and there are all colors of rain pouring down and the drought has ended," said Batch. "It represents that and the hard times you go through in life. You stick in there through the hard times and appreciate the rain more than ever before when it finally happens.'
Batch said he is a little nervous as to how the artwork will be received by those that attend the festival, as it's the first time he has ever put it on display in this type of setting. In November he hosted an art sale to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Pittsburgh, but this time it's a much bigger audience that will be viewing his work.
"I am nervously excited to see how it goes," said Batch. "They are all new pieces. Once you get your hands on an original, that's it."
Batch admits there are some pieces, especially the first ones he created, that he will always hold on to. And his blank walls, they are now filled with the vibrant artwork that all has its own special meaning.
"In a way you want to keep all of them, that's a lot of hours I put into those pieces," said Batch. "But art isn't made to sit around and not be seen. I know there are things I can do to help causes and benefit people. I don't keep as much as I did at first. I have a few of my first pieces I will never get rid of."
It's likely after this weekend that his art collection will be much smaller, with many pieces likely to sell fast. Not bad for a guy who never even took an art class.
"This is one of my proudest accomplishments," said Batch. "I feel like life is about taking on different challenges you are not that familiar with and not just enjoying it, but becoming good at it. With my art that is where I have seen it evolve and I am proud it's moving forward. It's one of my top achievements."
Samples of Batch's artwork that will be on display at the Lubbock Arts Festival.