From The NFL To The Arts: Ex-Steelers Open Studio

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Baron Batch played in 12 games for the Steelers in 2012. (Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Baron Batch played in 12 games for the Steelers in 2012. (Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Growing up, Baron Batch wanted to be a football player and an artist. Batch, 26, saw his football career end in 2013 when he was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers. And now his career as an artist has begun.

Batch and fellow former Steeler teammate John Malecki have recently opened Studio A.M. in Pittsburgh, and they joined Bill Littlefield on Only A Game to discuss their new line of work.

BL: Baron, after you were let go by the Steelers, the Green Bay Packers did offer you a tryout. Why did you turn that opportunity down to start Studio A.M.?

[sidebar title="The Defending Champs" width="630" align="right"]Can the Seahawks repeat as Super Bowl champs? Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says they could win a few titles.[/sidebar]BB: For me it was pretty simple. I knew that my football limit was kind of locked. You know, I was a running back that was already aging, already had wear and tear on my body, and I had opportunities as a businessman to go and just jump into the business world and compete at a high level as well, so I just chose to do that.

BL: John you had played for various teams in the NFL from 2010 to 2013. Tell me a little bit about how life at Studio A.M. differs from your football career.

JM: Well, I know that I’m not going to walk into the studio in the morning and get cut that afternoon walking out the door. It’s nice knowing that there’s going to be somewhere for me to go the next day and not have to worry about losing my job.

BL: Baron, tell me a little bit about what appeals to people in John's custom furniture and your art.

BB: I think it's the fact that we cater toward our clients. If someone wants a certain piece of art and they want it to be presented a certain way, I’ll put my flare on it, but I’m going absolutely give them what they want.

BL: So the client is involved in deciding what the piece is going to look like?

It's nice knowing that there's going to be somewhere for me to go the next day and not have to worry about losing my job.

John Malecki

BB: Absolutely. I’ve had clients so involved in their art that they help paint it essentially.

BL: They help paint it. Cool.

BB: Yeah, it makes you want some art, doesn’t it?

BL: Absolutely. I’ll be out there. So we’re not talking about football-inspired creations here.

BB: No, I think football has taught me – it’s taught me the discipline to pursue a career in business. It taught me work ethic. But it’s a page and a chapter that I appreciate, that’s in my book, but it’s over.

BL: My understanding is that studio A.M. is not solely in the business of producing art. You got salsa going on there too?

BB: It’s funny, you know, so Angry Man Salsa I kind of got going while I was still playing so I could have something to kind of piggyback me into this transition. So Angry Man was that. So we got the space for the kitchen so we could up production. And then it turns out we just had a lot better ideas.

BL: John, you’ve eaten this stuff I assume.

JM: I eat it on everything. I make it myself, and I can’t keep it in stock for my own usage, so I mean, that’s how good it is.

BL: Baron, you have described Studio A.M. as an “incubator of creativity” and you’ve gone so far as to compare it to the New York Factory studio space of Andy Warhol, which brings to mind Nico, the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. I mean, what are we talking about here?

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BB: I’m glad you brought that up because, you know, I’ve never went and said that. That’s other people saying that, so that’s good. That means we’re being talked about in a positive light. I’ve actually never compared it to that. I think Studio A.M. is something of its own.

I think what Warhol did was a fantastic business model that he implemented because he realized he had a demand — you have to be able to collaborate to keep up with that. So just taking that model and kind of building a creative incubator company out of it, it’s a good model, to have creatives in-house — where you don’t have to outsource — and be able to have people come to a one-stop shop and be able to get work done efficiently and get the best work.

BL: John, I’m going to assume given your earlier response that if a top-tier NFL team were to call tomorrow with an open roster spot you would not be putting down your power tools and putting on shoulder pads.

JM: No, I wouldn’t. I mean, I had multiple opportunities this spring and summer to go out and, you know, phone calls to do tryouts for a couple teams, and it’s not just something – you know, it wears on your mind, it wears on your body. It wears on your integrity as a person.

You never want to get used to consistently being released, and that was something that I was forced into being getting used to. So now that Baron and I are in the driver’s seat of our own future and our own destiny, it’s a lot more relaxing. And it feels a lot better to be able to wake up in the morning and enjoy what you’re doing and not have to worry about it being gone tomorrow.


This segment aired on September 6, 2014.


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