Bad people doing bad things makes sexier headlines than good people doing good things, and the reality is most of us live somewhere in between, traveling that road of good intentions, which has a lot of potholes. Football players are no different. They come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and mindsets. Most are decent guys who live quiet lives off the field. The ones who don’t, however, are the ones we seem to know the best and become household names even to people who don’t follow football. And, tragically, here in the state of Pennsylvania football fans have been rocked to the core in the wake of the Penn State scandal, with the revelations and bad news just continuing to roll out of what must be a very Unhappy Valley. Therefore, it seemed like a good time to spotlight someone who quietly spends his days doing the rights things for the community and is a pretty good football player to boot: Charlie Batch.
Charlie has local roots. He hails from Homestead, which is a borough about 7 miles southeast of Pittsburgh’s city center and although he went to college at Eastern Michigan and was drafted by the Detroit Lions, spending the first four years of his professional career there, the majority of his career has been a back-up in Black and Gold, after the Steelers brought him in back in 2002. And while his days as a starting QB are behind him, it has been a mutually beneficial relationship with the Steelers. Charlie has been a more than proficient back up for Big Ben Roethlisberger during injuries and when some of his own off-season activities kept him in the headlines, but off the field at the start of the 2010 season. Charlie has two Super Bowl rings to show for it. But what makes the local boy a local hero isn’t what he has done for us on the field, in my opinion, it is what he does everyday off of it.
One of his primary charities is called The Best of the Batch Foundation, the mission of which is to run programs that impact the youth of financially challenged areas across the country, such as his own hometown (the median income for households in Homestead is less than $17,000 according to the latest census). The Foundation is involved in education programs not only during the school year, but also with summer programs. They supply underprivileged children for school through the Batchpack for Kids as just one of their many programs, which supplies not only backpacks, but supplies, books, clothing and even basic items like toothpaste and shampoo. He also created the Charlie Batch Urban Pumpkin Patch and Gardens to fight hunger using urban agriculture.
His bankruptcy filing last year tarnishes his reputation and has individuals locally, most of which are working class stiffs like myself, wondering how it is that he cannot manage more money than all of us collectively will ever see, when we manage to pay our bills every month. But, I choose to look past that and look at what he has accomplished outside of his bad business ventures. Consider the recognitions and achievements he has amassed according to the Foundation’s website: 2005 EMU Outstanding Alumnus Award, 2006 Bus Stops Here Foundation Humanitarian and Community Award, 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers Walton Payton Man of the Year, 2007 Mon Valley Initiative Volunteer Award, 2007 Duquesne Light Leadership Award, 2007 Boys and Girls Club Outstanding Service Award, 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates Community Service Award, 2008 Three Rivers Youth The Nellie Leadership Award, 2009 Pump 40 Under 40 Award, 2010 NFPLA Executive Committee Member and 2010 Eastern Michigan University Hall of Fame. I think that’s the bigger list, not the list of worldly possessions of his from his bankruptcy petition that, if you look hard enough, you can actually find online.
Charlie Batch is one of many Steelers who spend a lot of time and energy with charitable causes, but he’s the homegrown boy who has overcome personal loss and obvious financial strains and continues to work toward the betterment of the community where he grew up. Personally, I think that’s a good thing and worth noting as much as who got arrested for what during the off-season.