Yearly Archives:

2012

As simple as salt and pepper

DIARY 51

“Hey Baron this is Kevin Colbert, give me a call back when you get a chance.”

That was the voicemail I received a few weeks ago on my day off.

Kevin Colbert is the general manager of the Steelers, and rarely is it a good thing to get a call from the GM of the team… especially on an off day.

Knowing the team’s injury situations I knew what the call was. I knew what was about to happen before dialing the number back, so I braced myself for what was coming.

I knew a brotha was about to be fired…and ironically on my day off.

Dang.

I’ve been booted from a few study groups back in college, but have never actually been fired from anything before. Turns out the rumors are all true. Being fired sucks.

“We are going to have to release you. We’ve decided to make a roster move with you to make some room due to injuries, come into my office and Coach Tomlin and I will explain it.”

“Ok I’ll be there in a few minutes.”  I replied.

After speaking with Mr. Colbert and Coach Tomlin they explained the situation of me being released. The NFL is a business, and has to be treated as such. Business moves are made everyday. The tricky part is not taking any of those business moves personal, and I definitely understood the business move.  Thankfully I had practice squad eligibility left being that I didn’t play last year, and was told that I would be re-signed in a day if I cleared the waiver wire.

After being released players go on the ‘waiver wire’, where they can be picked up by any team for the next 24 hours. And if a team claims you off the waiver wire, and wants to sign you to their active roster you have to go. Its not a good feeling knowing that someone could call you at any point, and all of a sudden you have to start over in a new city.

Not a good feeling at all.

Dang it. I’m unemployed. No health insurance. No paycheck…. help me Obama!

Help me please!

The following day was one of the longest days I’ve experienced in a while. As minutes and hours crawled by I prayed that my phone didn’t ring. Practice squad in a place that I love in my opinion beats a game check. My phone never rang, and later the next day as promised I was resigned to the practice squad.

That was two weeks ago.

The past few weeks have been quite the learning experience. I guess sometimes you cant self evaluate your spirit until you get certain things stripped away from you. For me it was my job.  Something I felt I had worked hard for, and deserved more than anything.

Entitlement is a tricky little demon indeed.

Would I have chosen for my job to be what was stripped away? Heck no!

But that sounds about right. I guess that’s the way a child responds when a parent takes something away to prove a point.

Like a little ashy black baby, deep down I was kicking and screaming, soaking up my tears with my poufy afro.

While on the outside I tried to trick God by saying…. “Of course I trust you!”

How typical.

I can only imagine him simply smiling while saying,

“Hmm…just show me.”

I guess the best time to measure trust is when it’s put on display. Yes, sometimes the process can be rough but in the end is always worth it.

And this process is quite familiar to me.

I’m not sure why it always comes as a surprise. I should know what spiritual growth looks like by now.

But I guess if I wasn’t uncomfortable then it wouldn’t be growth. Kind of like when adolescents hit their growth spurts their knees ache…. or something like that.

Gosh my knees are hurting right about now.

Hmmm…. I think I’m growing.  I mean my knees have been achy…. maybe they’re growing?

Well… I guess I am a Kneegrow.

It’s weird coming into the locker room on Fridays and not seeing my bag there that I usually pack up for Sunday’s game. It’s been even more difficult watching my teammates that I’ve played with the entire season go out and play without being there. The games are pretty difficult to watch on TV.

It’s been beyond humbling. And in all seriousness has forced me into another uncomfortably awesome stage, the stage that in all reality I’m thankful for. If nothing has ever come easy for you in life, be thankful for that. It means you’ve had countless opportunities to grow.

Life changes quite a bit once you learn to be thankful for the things that are difficult.

This past Saturday I needed to clear my head. For me sometimes the best thing is to simply go where it’s quiet. Where distractions are minimized.

So I climbed into my car and drove with no real destination in mind. Driving helps me clear my head I guess. For some reason I can think best behind the wheel. The constant sound of the car engine, and tires against the road are hypnotic, and somehow eliminate the unnecessary spices that at times tend to marinate my mind?

Like a good steak, no marinating is needed

What’s wrong with me?

Any Texan should know that would ruin a good steak.

Things like that can ruin a good person.

And things like that can ruin a dream.

(These are the things I think about while driving.)

Sometimes salt, pepper and an open flame are all that’s required. A good steak is supposed to taste how God intended it to, with just the basic essentials.

Maybe this NFL dream of mine is supposed to taste just as God intended as well?

For me I find solitude in eliminating all the other ingredients that tend to marinate my mind.

The spices of  ‘what if?’ , ‘maybe I should have?’ ,  and ‘why?’.  All mixed together in an over salted vat of ‘doubt’, and left to soak this perfect God given dream of mine.

So I drive with my hands on the wheel, and eyes on the road. Letting the engine’s gentle humming clear the clatter between my ears, while the soothing vibrations of the tires against the road shake my mind of the useless spices.

Through the windy roads of Western Pennsylvania I drive, with no destination in mind.  All the while, fighting to reassure myself that the purest hopes and dreams are meant to taste the way God intended, and best lightly seasoned with one thing.

Any Texan knows too many spices can ruin a good steak.

Any Texas knows its as simple as salt and pepper.

What’s wrong with me?

(These are the things I think about while driving.)

How ironic that seasoning something to make it taste better, can simply end up ruining it. It’s quite ridiculous how quickly I repeatedly forget that God given hopes and dreams always taste best when simply sprinkled with one basic and essential seasoning.

I really should stop adding my own ingredients to this.

Cooking a good steak really isn’t that difficult, and it’s amazing what a bit of salt and black pepper can do.

But try tasting a God given dream covered in trust.

Seasoned with the basic essentials, and tasting just how it was meant to.

What a simple concept I so easily forget.

Honestly I’m not sure how long I’ll be on the practice squad, or if I’ll get moved back to the active roster, or in all reality play a game in the NFL again. All those things may or may not happen. That’s the crazy thing about this profession I guess.

The uncertainty of it all.

I Guess this whole ‘life’ thing we’re all living is very much the same.

Here today and gone tomorrow. Job today, unemployed the next. It quite certainly is the most uncertain thing of all.

But at the end of the day anything that’s certain wouldn’t require trust. And that would be just as ludicrous as seasoning a perfect piece of steak with all the wrong spices.

Just like a good steak with salt and pepper, life tastes so much better when simply seasoned with trust.

(These are the things I think about while driving.)

I’ve been driving for a while now, and it’s beginning to get dark. I glance down at my GPS to see exactly where I’m at, being that I’ve just been taking random roads the entire time.  A GPS is always reassuring to have on a random road trip.  It’s nice to know you won’t get lost, when cell phone service fades on the back roads.

As I peek closer at my cars GPS to see exactly where in Western PA I am, all fear of being lost fades. Because I trust it to get me to where I need to go. I’m so quick to trust my car for directions. It’s funny how clear things become when I’m driving and distractions are eliminated. But I guess these are the things that I think about while driving.

I think about how the team is probably landing in Baltimore right about now to play the Ravens, and how I’m not there. I start to get aggravated all over again. Frustration builds.

I try to trick God again as I think to myself,

“Of course I trust you!”

Feeling guilty about this lie I glance back down at my GPS to see where I am, while trying hard to shake the unnecessary spices that marinate my thoughts.

As I stare at the glowing light coming from my GPS a simple truth hits me, and my left knee starts to ache. Maybe I’ve been cramped in the car too long. Possibly my surgically repaired knee needs to be stretched.

Or could this be a growing pain?

As the light from my GPS cuts through the now dark vehicle my knee continues to ache, and I can only imagine God speaking back through the humming of the car engine, and soothing vibrations of the tires against the road gently saying,

“You easily trust your GPS, but I’m so much more. I know everywhere that you’ve been, because I was there too.  I know everywhere that you’ll ever go, because I’ve already been there. On the roads you thought you traveled alone, I never left you.

Trust me.”

Blessings,
Baron

 

Charity Art Show

8 months ago I started painting because I had tons of wall space and time on my hands while rehabbing my knee.

I have never taken classes and just kind of learned on the fly. I remember going to buy my paint for the first time,  and bought screen printing paint and couldn’t figure out why if wouldn’t dry. Upset that I wasted so much money on paint that I couldn’t use I almost gave up on painting all together. Luckily I stuck with it, because its amazing what God can do if you just stick with something you have passion for.

I have come a long way since those days! I would have never imagine that I would have a one man art show, but last week it actually happened. Painting is something that I have truly come to love over the past year. It’s kind of therapeutic for me, it’s one of the few things that completely takes my mind off of everything that I have going on. Ironically I think I have fallen more in love with the process of creating art more than actually being able to hang it and look at it.

I was approached by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation here in Pittsburgh to show my art and auction off a few pieces. The event was awesome! We raised about 12k benefiting the CF foundation. Here is a short video of the event! Enjoy.

 

The little things

DIARY 50

The last time my dad attended one of my football games I was in High School.

I guess I never realized how long it had been, until I offered to fly him and my younger brother Brandon to Pittsburgh for our game against the Washington Redskins. 10 years ago the idea of being able to fly my family across the country for a football game would have seemed impossible. Out of all the things that football has allowed me to experience up to this point, it always seems to be the little things like that, that are the sweetest rewards of all.

“It’s all about the little things.”

A lot has happened over the past few months. I’ve had my fair share of highs and lows in my first year playing up to this point, from making the team, to scoring my first NFL touchdown and being a team captain, to letting a sure touchdown pass slip through my fingers on national television. It’s been quite the year so far…. and I absolutely love it.

I guess the trick of it all is not getting too high on your highs or too low on your lows.

“It’s all about the little things.”

This will be my 50th Diary that I have written. It’s pretty crazy to think there have been that many really.

It’s even crazier to know that many of you have been following my story up to this point. I think the coolest thing about scoring my first touchdown a few weeks back was knowing that so many of you that have supported me might of well have been there in the end zone right along with me.

Pittsburgh has grown on me quite a bit. It’s to the point where I’d consider it as home. There aren’t many people I’ve encountered that are as proud as Texans, but Pittsburghers are right up there. So I guess I’m like extra proud these days.

I have finally found a legit group of friends, and most importantly moved into a house and built a fire pit in my backyard like my old one back in Texas.

It’s a good feeling to be settled after two years of uncertainty.

“It’s all about the little things.”

Over the past few months this is what God has been reminding me of daily.

“Enjoy the little things Baron.”

I feel like I had gotten away from that. I feel like I had been so fixated on the major accomplishments that I had forgotten about all the awesome little things until recently.

It’s amazing how easy it is to avoid riding the emotional rollercoaster life can be when you remember to count your blessings.

For me it’s been my family, fire pit and friends.

“Its all about the little things.”

That’s what I’m going to keep reminding myself.

Count your blessings.

Count them twice so you don’t forget.

Blessings,
Baron

Charity Art Showing yo!

Ok so heres the deal. As many of you know I paint.

The sole reason I started to paint was simply to take up time while I was back in Pittsburgh rehabbing my knee and decorate my empty walls.  Well…come to find out I really enjoy doing it. Not only do I love doing it, but it also turns out that some people like my work. Its flattering really.

About 4 months ago I was approached by a friend who works with the Cystic Fibrosis foundation here in Pittsburgh to do a charity gallery showing. At first I was hesitant being that a lot of my art is personal but the more I thought about it I figured that I should absolutely use a talent that God has blessed me with, especially if it could help others. It’s pretty interesting that things God will use sometimes. Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would ever have a one man art showing….but its happening. If you happen to be in Pittsburgh or want to come I would love to meet you and have you bid on some of my work. Thanks again! Hope to see yall there.

blessings,
baron

 

 

I’ll follow you into the dark

So I have started a new series of art.

I typically paint in series of 3. Typically it’s 3 things that have similar meaning or something along those lines. Typically I paint in bright colors simply because I like color a lot. I thought it would be a challenge to go in the opposite direction and do a series of just black and white paintings.

I have always wanted to do a series of paintings that are visual representation of song lyrics that I like,  with the actual song lyrics on them. Getting better at drawing fonts is another goal of mine so I figured this would be a good project to do. Here is the first of a series of five paintings I will be working on over the next few months. This is my depiction of Death Cab’s “I will follow you into the dark.” If you haven’t heard it go check out my music page and I’m pretty sure it’s on there. Hope y’all like it.

 

Second Chance Pittsburgh

If you know me, you know that I’m all about people trying to make a difference.

Since I have been in Pittsburgh I’ve met some pretty cool people. One of those people that has become one of my friends is Brandon. Brandon owns a clothing line and makes shirts and other cool stuff. Recently he shared his passion for helping his hometown of Braddock with me. Brandon’s project is called Second Chance Pittsburgh.

We had lunch the other day and he posed the question to me “What would you do differently if you had a second chance at anything?” I’m not the type of person to live in the past, or really think about regrets so this question caught me off guard. At first I tried lying to myself and believing there is nothing that I would do differently. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that there are some things I would like to have a second shot at. I think if I could go back I would be more honest with myself and others. I also would not care so much what people thought about me at an earlier age like I do now.

So heres the deal. What would you do if you had a second chance? Brandon’s whole campaign is about second chances. It’s about giving his community of Braddock a second chance by not only physically building back up the community by repairing the local clothing bank that supports over 100 families with clothes in the community, but also showing that sometimes you cant always get your second chance you’d hope for….but sometimes you can be someone else’s second chance. Just like Brandon is doing for his community of Braddock.

So this is where you guys come in. Go check out Second Chance Pittsburgh, and by using the hashtag #secondchancepit via any social media forumupload a picture of yourself holding a sign of what you might do a little differently if you had a second chance at anything. If you don’t feel comfortable posting a picture but you would like to get involved you can hit the donate button on the bottom of the Second Chance Pittsburgh web page. I’ll be donating some of my artwork to a random person who gets involved and donates so keep your ears open! Thanks for helping out someone who is simply trying to make a difference.

blessings,
Baron

 

Bye week baby

So this past week was the bye week, and I was able to get some time off.

I decided to stay in Pittsburgh instead of going back to Texas. I pretty much rested and relaxed the entire time. It was the first significant amount of down time I have had since training camp started. Yesterday while everyone was watching college football I spent my Saturday antiquing. Yes. You heard me. Antiquing. The art of finding old forgotten awesomeness. I scored 3 pretty awesome finds.

The first was a 70 year old chest. I need to get the inside reupholstered and find a way to get the mothball smell out, but overall it’s awesome. The second is a sweet globe from 1920. I have always wanted an awesome globe being that I love to travel, and yesterday I finally found it! The third is the best find. It’s a all original cast iron fan made by Graybar Electric from 1916. Almost 100 years old!!! And it still works great. It weights about 50 pounds and is solid as ever.

My house is starting to look like the set of an Indiana Jones movie (not the last one with the aliens, because that movie sucked). So just in case you were wondering what kind of stuff I’m into this is it. Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong century. Oh well. If any of you happen to think “oh I’d love to get Baron a gift,” get me something along the lines of this stuff and I’ll love you forever….or at least say thank you and give a hug.

Hope all you jive turkeys have a fantastic day. Be praying for me as we start back up the work week, and start preparing for the Eagles. Y’all are the best!

Blessings,
Baron

 

Hunter

DIARY 49

Roughly 2 months ago my friend Heath went to be with Jesus. He had been battling cancer. He left behind his wife Stephanie, his daughter Baylee, and unborn son Hunter.

I remember Heath telling me how Hunter was a miracle baby being that he was conceived while he was going through chemo, and was told by the doctors that he would be sterile during that time.

I remember him bragging  to me about how the chemo didn’t stop his little guys from working hard! I guess I’d be pretty proud too.

I’d venture to say that Heath was my biggest fan.

“I can’t wait for you to make the team next year and be back out there.”

This is what Heath would tell me.

He had complete faith that I would be on the team even though I had torn my ACL, and hadn’t even played an NFL game yet. To be honest I wasn’t exactly sure if I’d be on the team in a year. But Heath had complete faith in me.

After speaking at Heaths funeral, Stephanie kept me updated on the arrival of their son Hunter. I remember being dog tired after the long days at training camp, and checking my phone to see an update on Hunter. It would always make my day, and was never unaccompanied by a smile.

Training camp went on and inside Stephanie’s belly baby Hunter grew.

Minutes, days, and weeks fell from the branches of time,  and before I knew it we had just wrapped up our last preseason game against the Panthers.

Final roster cuts loomed the next day.

Nervousness wouldn’t describe the feeling of waiting to know if you have still have a job or not. I didn’t sleep well the night after the game. I actually woke up breathing hard after I dreamt that my phone rang, and I was told that I had been released.  To top it all off, the day of final roster cuts I was moving from my apartment into my house. It’s best to be proactive about finding a place to live, but there was a real possibility that as soon as I had gotten moved into my new home my phone could ring and I’d be moving right out.

The day of final roster cuts is like being drafted all over again….. but the polar opposite. On draft day you are waiting and praying that your phone will ring because that means that you will have a job in the NFL.

On the day of final roster cuts they only call the people that are getting released. If you don’t get a call you’re good. No news is good news. So you just hope that your phone doesn’t ring. Because if you don’t hear from the team that means that you still have a job. It’s like being drafted all over but the shorter smellier end of the stick. With each vibration of my phone in my pocket my heart rate would increase, as I would nervously peek just to see that it was a text message from a friend or email notification.

This happened all morning and most of the afternoon.

As I was unpacking at my new place  mid afternoon, I felt my phone buzz. My heart dropped.

“Well….this could be it.” I thought.

Even though I felt good about my chances on making the final 53 man roster, the fact still remained that all day many hardworking talented football players were getting that fateful call across the NFL  being informed that they would be unemployed.

As I took a deep breath with my heart racing, I pulled my phone from my pocket and looked down at the screen.

“He’s here! 9lbs 3oz, 22 inches long.”

Hunter had arrived!

At that moment all anxiety about roster cuts melted away and all I could do was smile.

Seconds later my phone buzzed again.

“Congratulations on making the final 53!”

Then it buzzed again.

“So proud of you. Good to see all that hard work pay off!”

Then again, again…and again.

The Steelers had just made the final 53-man roster final and available to the public….

And I was on it.

Tears brimmed my eyes. God is good.

“I can’t wait for you to make the team next year and be back out there.”

That’s what Heath told me before he passed. He also told me his only wish was to live long enough to see his son Hunter born. I’m sure Heath was grinning  ear to ear from heaven as he saw both happen within seconds of each other.

I’m probably the worst person ever at remembering birthdays. There have been times my own has come and Facebook has been my reminder. However, Hunters birthday is a date that I’ll always remember.

The journey of life is an interesting one. Everyone’s story is different, but many times we are connected more than we might ever know.

Like Hunter and I.

He has no idea the chapter he and his father  have in my story. Maybe one day he’ll read this and find out.

Each chapter is unique, and I’m blessed to be able to share mine.

I feel the last page of a chapter coming soon.

There have been peaks, valleys, joy, tears, frustration and every other emotion in-between in this chapter.  I have created my own ripples, and been affected by ones not of my origin. I have danced with Doubt, and have had many conversations alone with Faith. I have sailed through storms, and have been afraid. I have exposed my own Lies and listened to Truth. I have learned to forgive. I have lost relationships and gained new ones. I have grown and matured. I’ve stumbled, and got back up….then stumbled again. I have failed. I have succeeded. I have broken hearts, and have been broken. I have done things I’m not proud of, and I have accomplishments I’m happy with.

But most of you already know this. Because you have been following me on this journey. You have been reading my chapters.

You have gotten to know me, and have rooted for me. You have been heartbroken for me in my darkest valleys, and you have raised your arms high with me on the mountains peak.

You have prayed for me.

Thank you.

My journey is very much yours as well, and I feel a new chapter coming. The last page is starting to turn.

The poor kid from West Texas with awful haircuts, that slept on the floor in front of a space heater as a child, is finally officially an NFL player.

I guess with all the highs and lows, and things I have experienced so far; the only thing I have never done is quit.

It’s amazing what someone can do if they simply refuse to give up.

With that being said….

It’s been a long road to get to the starting line.

My old chapter is done. A new chapter starts now.

Blessings,
Baron

Necessary moments of Impact

DIARY 48

From the time I started playing football I would imagine playing in the NFL.

I remember the first game I ever played on the varsity at Midland High. My uniform was purple and gold. I remember being lined up on the sideline right before kickoff as the national anthem played. Butterflies flapped their wings rapidly in my belly.  I remember looking across the field thinking “one day I will do this and have an NFL jersey on.”

It was a bit surreal remembering that exact moment 9 years later as the national anthem once again plays. Butterflies rapidly flapping their wings inside my belly, almost so loudly I can hear them.  Fireworks erupt from across the field as the national anthem ends. I’m no longer wearing purple and gold. My uniform is now black and gold, and the team that stands across the field aren’t the Coronado Mustangs, but the Philadelphia Eagles.

After being in the NFL for over a year, I’m finally about to play my first NFL game.

I’ve been patiently waiting for this moment. It’s been a long time coming… and a lot of hard work in between.

The last game I played in was my bowl game at Texas Tech my senior season.

It’s been a while.

It was an amazing feeling being able to get back on the field and play the game that I love. I’d say my first game was a success. It wasn’t the statistical jaw dropper that most players would imagine or hope for themselves, but it was something that was incredibly necessary for me to take the next step in getting back to 100 percent. It was a good feeling getting tackled again. With each hit I gained more and more confidence in my left knee. After the game I hugged and thanked my trainers who helped me through the entire rehab process, and put up with my hard headedness and frustration that sometimes would spill over onto them. Many of my teammates came up to me and patted me on the back saying “It’s good to see you out there B Batch.”

“It’s good to be back out there.” I replied.

The last month has seemed like three, but that’s what training camp does. Physically it’s not the most demanding thing that I’ve had to do, but the mental grind everyday is what wears on guys. There is a certain level of stress that comes with competing for your livelihood day in and day out against other men at such a high level. But then again playing in the National Football League to me is the best job in the world. It’s only fitting that one has to fight tooth and nail for the opportunity.

Training camp was officially over yesterday. Overall I think I had a solid camp. Each week it seemed as if another layer of rust would come off, and slowly I’d start feeling more and more like my old self. At times I’d get frustrated when I couldn’t make a certain cut or movement that I used to be able to, but as each day went by I’d begin to surprise myself when the moves that I thought were gone started to resurface.

“Oh I remember you!” I would think to myself.

“It’s been a long time, it’s nice to meet you again.”

Last season being on the injured reserved list I would stand on the sidelines during games. The hardest thing was watching everyone else getting ready to go play, and knowing that I couldn’t…. knowing that I would have to just wait patiently for my turn.

I remember the first home game I attended.  I remember being out on the field during pregame warm ups, and one of the other running backs looking over at me while I was standing in my sweats and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll be out here before you know it.”

He wasn’t lying.

Yesterday I played my first game at Heinz field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Running out of the tunnel I tried to snap as many mental pictures so I would never forget that moment. I remember the smell of tailgating. I remember all the terrible towels waving, and I remember running right past the exact place I stood a little over a year ago in my sweats just wishing I would run out with my teammates.

I high fived myself as I ran by.

“Go get em and leave it all out there.” That’s what I would have told myself.

“I will.” I thought.

It was an amazing feeling getting to play in front of all the Steeler fans. In the back of my mind though I still had a bit of worry about my knee. It’s been something that I knew would only be taken away by one thing…and that one thing was something that I feared more than anything.

A vicious necessary moment of impact.

Ironic how that works huh?

I knew that for me to finally know that I was back to normal I would have to get hit on my surgically repaired knee. Not tackled, not bumped or thudded, but a real vicious hit to my knee. Until this happened I knew in the back of my mind I would worry about whether my knee was back to normal.

Right before halftime we were running our 2-minute offense. I ran a route out of the backfield and was thrown a pass. As soon as I caught the ball and turned around all I could see was the defender lunging full speed at my knee. My heart stopped. Everything went silent.

People who have close encounters with death always say that they see their lives flash before their eyes. I guess this was somewhat similar. In the split seconds before my knee was impacted I thought of all the hours of rehab I had gone through. I thought about he frustration. I thought about the waiting.

And boom.

All I felt was a thud and I was air born.  It was the vicious necessary impact that I had feared.

It was the most painfully awesome hit that I have ever taken. Yes it hurt. As I doubled over on my hands and knees as I heard the two defenders that hit me talking trash as they hovered over me.

I cringed from the pain, and my body said, “don’t get up Baron.”

I would have listened if it weren’t for the little man inside me.

Everyone has their ‘little person’ deep down inside their soul. This person is formed from past experiences and is who you are deep down.

Sometimes this little person will surprise you with how loud their voice can be when these moments of vicious necessary impact occur. Many times your little persons voice will conflict with everything else that you are feeling at the moment.

“Get up.”

This is what the little man inside me said.

“Get up.”

As the two Indianapolis Colt defenders congratulated each other on a great hit, deep down I thanked them because they had finally provided the necessary impact that I had feared for so long.

As I pushed myself to my feet and jogged back to the huddle with a grimace on my face, I could hear the little man inside me say…

“You’re back now.”

I guess sometimes the things we fear so much are the same things that provide us with the breakthrough we need.

I guess sometimes it takes a necessary moment of impact to allow us to hear our little person’s resounding voice deep from within our souls that simply says…

“Get up. You’re back now.”

Blessings,
Baron

Email from a fellow Overcomer

I check my emails once a day and read everything that people send me. Sometimes its people asking simple questions, and sometimes it’s people telling me their stories. I love when people share their stories with me. Every so often I get an email from someone who I have never met that brightens my day. Today that happened. Here is the email from a fellow overcomer.

Baron,
I found your blog through a recommendation from another blogger, whom I sort of follow.  I was curious to read your story, because like you, I had a really rough childhood, and despite it, was able to rise above.

My family was also very poor.  My dad also worked out of town a lot, in the oil industry.  My parents, however, were picture perfect – the story of true love.  When I was 15, my dad had a stroke.  He was only 39.  He was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiform, brain cancer.  He was sick, very sick for 11 months before he died on December 1, 1993.  While he was sick, he was mentally retarded.  Like a child, he couldn’t be left alone.  When I had friends over, he’d say and do ridiculous things, like acting like a rooster.  It was horribly embarrassing, and very, very sad.  I felt like my whole world was crashing down.  I was in 10th grade English class when a school administrator pulled me out of the room to tell me my father had passed away in the nursing home where he’d been living for 2 months.  I never even got to say goodbye.

My only sibling went to prison shortly thereafter and has been there for almost 20 years.  My mother mostly ignored me the rest of my teenage years, while I floundered awkwardly through life situations that could have gone much better with the guidance of a parent.

But you know what?  I was smart.  I had that going for me.  I was smart, and I knew it.  While I was unable to attend college because of financial hardships, I was able to work my way up in the IT field over the last 15 years.  I’m now a systems engineer for a very large online bank, am married to a wonderful guy, have an awesome toddler son, and probably make more money than anyone I graduated with out of my tiny east Texas town (Tatum in the house, y’all).

It isn’t always about your circumstances.  It isn’t about how crappy you (we) had it.  It isn’t about death or being shuffled around from house to house (I know all about that!), or football or cheerleading (my personal outlet in high school).  It’s not about hardships or being poor or dealing with the absolute worst deck of cards.

It’s about strength.  It’s always about your inner strength.  Can you rise above?  Of course you can.  The answer is ALWAYS of course you can.  The only question is, will you?

Who can say what a bad childhood really is, right?  We could all compare sob stories for hours, but the truth is in the actions of the unfortunate.  Honestly?  I didn’t even know you were NFL until I got to the end of your entry.  Congrats to you, as everyone knows that’s a really hard road to work your way through.  I don’t even know you, but I’m proud for you.

Sincerely,
Andrea

The Now

DIARY 47

As I was driving down the road heading to Latrobe, PA where training camp is held earlier today I couldn’t help but think that last time I was on that highway I was being taken into Pittsburgh to get an MRI on my left knee.

As I drove out of Latrobe a year ago and everyday since, I constantly thought about the day I would drive back the opposite direction heading towards training camp a year later. I imagined passing myself roughly a year later going the opposite direction and waving over the steering wheel and smiling, like everyone in Texas does when they pass an oncoming vehicle.

That thought was somewhat of a lighthouse to me. It’s what I would look to when things would seem dark. In between the last time I left, and today when I drove back down that road a lot has happened. There have been good days and bad. There have been setbacks as well as goals I have met.

There have been unforgettable relationships I have made, and people I was able to help from my injury. I’ve said it once and I will always stand by it. God knows what he is doing. It’s a good feeling to be able to stay reassured by that. A friend of mine sent me an email yesterday that pretty much sums up my entire last year…..well….actually it sums up my whole life. It was a quote that she said reminded her of me.

Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think that you’ve lost time. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now….and the now is right on time.
– Asha Tyson.

It was a pretty awesome feeling being able to wave to my past self over the steering wheel as I drove back to training camp a year later. I feel like we shared a consenting nod and smile as our cars quickly crossed paths. Even though there was no exchange of words there was a mutual respect that came from knowing exactly where one was heading, and an admiration of knowing where one had come from.

I guess in some instances in life, a detour isn’t always a road that leads someone to a different destination like some may think. For me, my detour never got me off the same stretch of highway. In fact today I passed myself and waved.

Maybe, just maybe… your detour is very much the same. Put in your life so when the brief and fleeting moment comes that you pass your former self you can simply nod and wave over the steering wheel in admiration like Texans do, because that car knows where you came from, and you know where it is headed to. And if the visibility becomes low be sure to flash your high beams, signaling that everything that will be encountered will bring them to the now…..and the now is right on time.

Blessings,
Baron

Heath

DIARY 46

I met Heath roughly a year ago when his wife Stephanie emailed me asking if I could possibly write him a letter of encouragement or send some words his way as he continued his 7 year battle with cancer.

She told me that I was one of his favorite players. She told me that he loved reading my blog and enjoyed rooting me on during my time at Texas Tech. She told me that he looked up to me. Perplexed by the idea that a grown man battling cancer would look up to me boggled me at first. Nothing I have ever gone through has been anything close to battling for the most necessary thing one can fight for, a battle for life itself. Upon reading Stephanie’s email I replied asking if I could have Heaths phone number because I would like to shoot him a text message.

“Hey man just wanted to let you know I’m praying for you, have faith.”

That’s the text I sent Heath, and quickly my phone buzzed with a reply reading

“Thanks but who is this? I don’t have this number in my phone.”

“This is Baron Batch. I got your number from your wife Stephanie,” I texted back.

His response was one that flattered me, and made me laugh at the same time.

“No way!!! This has to be a prank! This is too cool!”

I assured him that it wasn’t a prank and that was where our friendship began.

Over the next few months Heath and I kept up with each other primarily through text messages. He would keep me updated on how his treatments were coming along and I would keep him posted on my ACL rehab. We would chat about blog posts that I wrote and about life in general. The first time I actually met Heath in person was when I agreed to tell my story at his church back home in Lubbock during this past offseason. He proudly gave my introduction to the assembly of people prior to me going on stage to speak. I remember him telling the same story I just told about how we met to the audience of people. That night I spoke about the power of simply having faith.

A few weeks later Heath and I met for coffee and talked for hours. He was one of those people that made me feel like I had known him for years even though it had been only months. I especially remember discussing a story I had written after tearing my ACL called “A Storm is Coming.” This story was about choosing to sail through storms in life with Faith instead of Doubt. Heath told me that it was his favorite. He said that he would frequently read it when he was having doubts. He said it helped him on days where his pain was unbearable. Hearing him tell me these things humbled my spirit, but also left me in admiration of him. He would always tell me how he admired me…but I’m not quite sure if he realized how much it was quite the opposite. We talked about our families, and I’ve never seen a man light up so much when talking about his. He would always text me pictures of his daughter, which would never cease to bring a smile to my lips. I remember him texting me telling me that his wife Stephanie was pregnant again and he was going to have a baby boy in addition to his daughter. He used an absurd amount of exclamation points!!!!!!…. But it was definitely called for.

Throughout OTA’s and minicamp Heath would text me letting me know he was praying for me and vice versa. He became someone I would call a friend, and there aren’t many people I use that word with.

4 weeks ago Stephanie texted me telling me that Heath wasn’t doing very well. She said that he told her that he would like me to speak at his funeral. It was one of his last wishes. This is something that I’ve never done. But I was more honored to do this than anything else in my life up to this point.

This past Friday while I was in New Orleans spending time with all my family for the first time in 10 years, my friend Heath left his to be with Jesus.

Thursday I spoke at Heath’s memorial service. I stood on the same stage in the same church where Heath and I met in person the first time as he proudly introduced me before speaking with a huge smile on his face. I imagined Heath sitting in the crowd behind his family where he sat roughly 5 months earlier as I spoke. This time it was a much different occasion but the message was the same.

Faith.

With sweaty nervous hands I pulled out 5 sheets of paper from my back pocket to read from.

I begin to read what Heath had said to be his favorite blog post I had written almost a year ago after tearing my ACL in fall camp called “A storm is Coming.”

After I finished reading I walked off the stage and handed the 5 sheets of paper to Heaths wife Stephanie. I encouraged her to read them when she doubts.

The past few days I have been thinking quite a bit. It’s amazing how God introduces people at the exact right time, at the perfect moment, for the perfect reasons.

When I met Heath I had no idea what the relationship would grow into. Honestly I felt like I was just doing a good deed by texting a random guy who I had never met. I felt like I was helping him, and I’m sure that partly was the case. But looking back on everything, knowing Heath blessed me more than I could ever have imagined. Turns out that he was the one that helped me.

Last time Heath and I sat down for coffee he told me that he admired my faith.

Heath, I never told you this. But you’re part of my faith now. A brick in my foundation. You strengthened it. You strengthened me. Knowing you was a privilege…and I’m looking forward to sitting down again to catch up.
Faith is a funny thing sometimes. It’s more contagious than the strongest virus and never ceases to grow…if you let it.

Everything about my friend Heath helped mine grow.

At the end of the day I guess it all boils down to having faith, simply because life is not easy nor is it fair. It wasn’t fair that Heath had to leave his family and unborn baby boy. But that’s not what faith is for. It’s not to have to make life easy. It’s to have because life is not.

Never underestimate the power of Faith. Hold her hand like Heath did. Climb in the canoe with her and set sail into your storm no matter how dark the clouds may seem. On a distant beach people are watching you in awe as you row through your storm with only Faith beside you.

And above all else always remember. The boat that Faith and you sail in can cast a mighty shadow on the distant beach that onlookers gaze from…

simply because your faith covers many more people than just yourself….

many more people than you might ever imagine.

Blessings,
Baron

Merry independence day!

Greetings from west Texas.

I hope and pray that all of you have a great 4th of July! Pop some fireworks, eat some burgers and dogs, but above all else remember those who sacrificed everything as well as all of our current armed forces, and those who have served. Remember to find someone you love and let em know!

Blessings,
Baron

 

Batch Family Get Together 2012

It’s been ten years since my 4 siblings, myself, and my father have all been in the same place at the same time.

Thinking back….the last time that this anomaly occurred was at my mothers funeral. With that being said I am very close with brothers and sister and love them dearly, but it has just been hard to get everyone in the same place at the same time. Weird to think that we went 10 years.

Last month we all decided to make a concerted effort to end this 10 year drought. We decided that we would all meet in New Orleans where my father lives and spend time together. This past weekend I spent time with my entire family in New Orleans. It was awesome. We just hung out and my last day, had a family picnic, and went fishing. Of course I had my camera on me but decided to not shoot many photos, instead I shot a ton of video to make a family video documenting our time together.

I could write for days about how much fun I had with my family, but instead I think this video sums it up pretty well. Here is the video I shot and edited of my time with my family.
 

Texas my sweet West Texas

Greetings from terminal B9 of the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, Louisiana.

For the first time in 10 years all of my siblings and my father got together and hung out. We all met in New Orleans where my dad lives. It was amazing to have everyone in one place. But I’ll save all of those happenings for another post once I have time to really sit down and write. But for now this will do! I’ve decided to swing back through West Texas for a week before fall camp starts. I can’t wait to be back for a little bit and see all of my peeps!

So today at this hole in the wall old school bookstore in downtown New Orleans I stumbled across an awesome hand painted map of Texas from 1840 when Texas was still a republic. Of course it made me excited to come back home. I can’t wait to get it framed. It’s definitely now one of the cooler things that I own. Keep an eye out for a more thorough overview of the Batch Family get together 2012 in the near future. I have lots to talk about! For now enjoy this awesome map of the republic of Texas.

Wellllllp….. I’m about to board this jet plane and come back home. Texas my love. Baby I’ll see ya soon.

Blessings,
Baron

 

One month and counting

Today is exactly the one month mark before I’ll report to Latrobe, PA where training camp is held.

Weird to think almost a year has passed already. Looking back it seemed as if Time itself crawled on its hands and knees at times, like a lost traveler dying of thirst, burning under the merciless sun of impatience. But it’s amazing what the scent of water can do. The light at the end of the tunnel is quite the motivator. The last 5 months however have been somewhat of a blur. The moment that seemed so far away when I felt my acl tear apart has snuck up like a ninja, tapping me on the shoulder and whispering “are you ready?”

When I think back on the last year ‘thankful’ is the word that always wispily floats to the surface. I keep my hospital band from my acl surgery as a reminder. I look at it daily. It reminds me of how thankful I should be, and that God has never once not come through for me. However he has said, “this isn’t what I have planned for you….trust me. I want the best for you.” And again….for that I’m thankful, even though at the time that answer can be a hard one to accept.

I’m proud to say the I completed both OTA’s and mini camp this past month and didn’t miss a rep or drill due to my knee giving me problems. This upcoming month I’ve decided to stay and train here in Pittsburgh and get in another strength and conditioning program for my knee. This will be my third this year. As the days creep by this month drawing closer the start of a new season I will stand faithfully on the word ‘thankful.’

One thing I’ve learned this year is that more times than not its not about what God is going to do that should motivate oneself. It’s about always remembering what he has already done. It’s about being thankful. Be thankful.

Blessings,
Baron

 

New art

Here is what I have been working on this week. Finally finished it up today!

This painting is actually a first for me in terms of the process I used. Also this piece took more hours than any other painting I have done as of yet. Typically I finish a piece in a few hours if I work straight through but this one took all week! Typically I paint with only acrylics on wood. But this time I pasted white construction paper to the wood creating the background and the clouds. Then went over it with paint sharpies and finished with acrylic. Then put on a clear coat of acrylic clear gloss to give it texture and repeated the process several times. The rain was created by diluting my acrylics with water and using a spray bottle along with the help of my good ole’ friend named Gravity. Now lets hope it dries correctly!

 

Salsa Yo!!!!

2 weeks ago I made salsa for the steelers equipment staff as a thank you gift.

Word got around and so did the salsa thus building the status of my salsa to legendary status at work. Before I knew it coaches and teammates were asking me for a jar. So my little project this weekend was to make, jar, and label my own salsa! It turned out great. The legend is growing…..

Baron

 

New hairdo yo!

So as some of you have known, I’m growing out my hair all season!

I did this once in college back in 09 at Texas Tech. So what was funny about this hairdo is that I would put an old school side part in my fro. Some people laughed and said I was ridiculous for doing it….and you know, maybe they were right. But somewhere there is a little kid rocking the same hairdo making a statement. A statement that says “I don’t care what all you other jive turkeys think!” Today I took my picture for the media guide and TV broadcasts. So without further adieu…..I give you the new look for the 2012-2013 football season! BOOM shakalaka!! Get on board it’s getting close.

Baron

 

Be Better

DIARY 45

“I don’t want to see you again.” Those were the words that my surgeon Dr. Bradley said to me after being fully released during my team physical.

“I don’t wanna see you again either,” I replied through an unmistakable grin that couldn’t be contained.

The following day we had our first OTA. For those of you that don’t know what OTA’s are, they stand for organized team activities and signify beginning stages of a new NFL season.

It’s a weird feeling to all of a sudden just be told that you’re ok to go compete with some of the best athletes in the world, and especially unsettling when you have been out of action for 9 months. But just like with other things in my life this was no different. Sometimes you just have to dive in.

Dive in with both feet, aware of the dagger like rocks that may or may not rest at the bottom of the lake, aware that you might not succeed and failure is a real possibility.

I wish I could tell you that I took my own advice on this.

I’d like to say that I was able to just dive right back into football. But truth be told I was too scared. I’ll be honest, the fist day of OTA’s I was terrified. All that was going through my mind was “be carful Baron, your knee is not the same. Don’t too run fast. Don’t cut too hard.”

The entire practice I felt my way through each drill softly planting and cutting off my left knee. Each time someone would run by me I would cringe and slow down. There were a few times I got the ball and ran straight for the sidelines out of bounds. It was embarrassing for me. I felt nothing like the player that I was and soon frustration began to set in.

That night it was hard for me to sleep. I stayed awake frustrated that my mind was what was holding me back. My knee felt fine and normal but the issues were all in my head. Before I went to sleep I told myself

“Tomorrow you will be mentally stronger and ignore that you had ACL surgery.”

Ha. I wish I could tell you that I took my own advice on this. But truth me told I was too afraid.

The following day was about the same. I felt a tad bit more confident but I still felt my way through each drill thinking to myself “Don’t run too fast Baron. Don’t cut too hard.”

And the frustration continued to grow.

That night it was hard for me to sleep. When I finally fell asleep, I dreamt of what my body felt like when I was in high school. Before all the injuries and surgeries. Before the game that I love started making me pay rent with torn ligaments and broken bones.

That next morning I woke up sore and discouraged. Pissed off at the world. It was just one of those days. I grabbed my playbook that I was up studying late into the night and headed to work. Before I knew it I was back on the field doing the same thing as the prior 2 days. Feeling my way through each drill thinking to myself “Don’t run too fast Baron. Don’t cut too hard.”

Midway through practice we entered our first team period where we went against our defense. I was in the huddle and got he play call from Ben.

“Toss 37.”

Toss 37 is a simple toss play to the left meaning that I would be planting off of my left knee.

My injured knee.

I had two options on this play. I could either get the ball and run straight out of bounds to avoid making a cut or I could plant my foot in the grass and make a hard cut off my left knee.

In the few seconds it took to line up and have the ball snapped a multitude of thoughts flowed through my mind.

“Just run out of bounds, don’t risk it.”

“No No No don’t just run out of bounds, what do you think you did all your rehab for these last 9 months? To just run out of bounds? Come on!”

“Do you really wanna risk all that rehab you did for one play?”

All the thoughts made sense and both sides held valid points.

What to do?

“Set……. Hut….!!!” In an instant the ball was snapped, pitched and on its way to my outstretched hands.

What to do….?

It’s a weird feeling to all of a sudden just be told that you’re ok to go compete with some of the best athletes in the world, and especially unsettling when you have been out of action for 9 months. But just like with other things in my life this was no different. Sometimes you just have to dive in.

Dive in with both feet, aware of the dagger like rocks that may or may not rest at the bottom of the lake, aware that you might not succeed and failure is a real possibility.

I’m proud to say that I was finally able to take my own advice on this.

I didn’t run out of bounds. But I stuck my left foot in the ground and cut back breaking a long run.

As I jogged back after the play one of the offensive lineman named Ramon said,

“Dang B-Batch that looked pretty good! How’d it feel?”

I couldn’t help but grin and say,

“Thanks man. It felt good. It felt really good. “

The rest of that practice I felt more and more confident with each play and cut that I made off my left knee, and by the end of the practice was having flashes of my old self.

That night I had no problems sleeping.

I’ve learned a lot from this ACL injury. I’ve  come to the realization that my knee will never be the same knee I had before my injury. I have given up on that thought.

But when Doubt creeps in and whispers “Don’t run too fast Baron, Don’t cut too hard. Your knee isn’t that same.”

I will reply,

“I know my knee isn’t the same……it’s better.”

The season is right around the corner and this will be my approach from here on out when dealing with the mental side of this injury. Confidence is key.

Confidence is trusting that you have worked hard enough to succeed. I know over the past 9 months I have worked hard enough. I’m confident of this.

With all of that being said it was a huge blessing to be back out on the field running around with my teammates. God is too good! Please keep praying for me. I can’t wait to be back out there, and it’s getting close.

And always remember, when Doubt creeps in and whispers, “Things will never be the same.”

Keep in mind that when things aren’t the same there is always an opportunity to become better.

Be better.

Blessings,
Baron