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Baron Batch Talks Art, Salsa, the NCAA and Returning to Texas Tech

Former Texas Tech football player Baron Batch talks to Viva The Matadors about art, salsa-making, the NCAA, returning to Lubbock as a former player and what it means to be a Red Raider.

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Please give a very warm welcome to Baron Batch. An artist. A salsa maker. A former football player.

Seth C: I'll start with the thing that I'm most interested in, which is your trip to Haiti. I think shortly after graduation you took a trip to Haiti. You took a ton of beautiful photos and tried to raise money for the people there. What drew you to Haiti and what was that life experience like for you?

Baron Batch: I traveled to Haiti the following day after we won the Ticket City bowl my senior year. I went with a medical mission team called Operation Hope based out of Lubbock Texas. I went primarily to document the trip as a photographer as well as help and assist with anything that anyone needed. It was a life changing experience. I thought I had a solid grasp on the rest of the world but the trip to Haiti gave me a greater appreciation for everything. With that being said I was taught another amazing lesson on that trip. And that is that money does not make you happy and poverty does not define anyone. The individuals I met in Haiti were the poorest people I have ever met in my life. However, they were also the most honest, hardworking, respectful and some of the happiest people I have been around. Ill forever be grateful for the opportunity that I had to go and serve.

Seth C: It seems that your art segued from photograph to painting, or maybe you were painting all of the time and we never got to see it. Either way, I find that transition, even if it was just publicly, interesting? How did you start painting and what was that transition like for you?

I literally structured the development of my skills as an artist like I would an off-season program. I studies creative exercises that I practice daily still. I learned everything that I could, and I practiced my craft as much as I could. At this time I was still playing but working as an artist essentially full time as well. -Baron Batch on Art-Training

Baron Batch: Aside from writing photography was my first art. I think it helps me tremendously now as an artist as well. Because knowing the composition of a painting to make it desirable is very much the same as composing a photo. I began painting after I tore my ACL during training camp my rookie year. I had a tremendous amount of time on my hands being that I finished rehab at noon each day and it was the offseason. I’ve never been a conformist, so the idea of getting IKEA or Michael’s art disgusted me. I didn’t like the thought that someone had the exact same print and that because of that in a way it made us equally as creative. The competitor in me is really what got me painting. It was the thought that "Gees I could paint something just as cool as that boring IKEA art" and then actually going and doing it. So initially when I began to paint I did it strictly because I loved it. I never intended to have it as a career, but a hobby. Painting filled my walls and then started to stack up against my walls. I soon realized I had to do something with them if I wanted to justify the amount of art I was producing. But I really did and do just love it that much. That I do it all the time, all day and night if I can. At the time I had a friend who is an event planner and works with charities and she proposed the idea of a charity art show. I figured it would be a cool thing to do and a way of me getting rid of some art so I had room to make more. Yes I was borderline hoarder status. But it served me well because after that charity art show we raised about 12k for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation here all from six of my paintings. After that event I started thinking…. "hmmmm I like doing this. I’m not the best but I can work at it and compete like anything else in this. And I’m passionate about this" And soon after that I came to the conclusion that I could do art forever.

The following year I was invited to be the featured artist at the Lubbock Arts Festival. I was pretty nervous about really and truly selling my work I busted my tail to get everything ready for the show and the success blew me away. I made in three days selling art what I made each week playing in the NFL and getting crushed. Then I had another thought, "hmmm….I can really see myself doing this!" and my confidence as an artist grew. Many failures over the years brought on small victories in my art career. Or I would disappoint a client with a commission and the thought of not being good enough motivated me to grow. I doubled the time I painted from maybe a painting every two weeks to three painting a week. I literally structured the development of my skills as an artist like I would an off-season program. I studies creative exercises that I practice daily still. I learned everything that I could, and I practiced my craft as much as I could. At this time I was still playing but working as an artist essentially full time as well. Art was my balance to football so it worked perfectly When I was released from the Steelers the transition was seamless because there wasn’t one. My transition in all reality was more of a continuation than anything, because I simply continued exactly what I was doing. The last three years as an artist have been nuts. I have gone from picking up the paint brush and knowing nothing, to having over 9 art shows, exhibiting in a handful of galleries, selling over 60 paintings, giving a former president a piece of my work, and in the foreseeable future will be in primetime gallery in New York. The only reason I state those accomplishments is to make this point. In a way, as an artist I have gone from the lowest beginning and in three years become a professional at my craft. The only determining factor was hard work and practice. So if I can do it, so can anyone else that truly wants to.

Seth C: I once called "salsa," "picante," at a restaurant one time and my wife couldn't stop laughing for five minutes. I used to work on a farm and the guys from Mexico that I worked with called "salsa," "picante" so there are times that I will still use that term. Should I be made fun of for using that term? Do you make salsa or picante? Tell us about Angry Man Salsa.

Baron Batch: Shame on you for that. Only Yankees use the word Picante. You know those ‘New York" cowboys. I make salsa. The best dadgum salsa that the world has or will ever know. Mark it down ya Turkey. This day I did declare that! And I stand by it too These whippersnappers these days think that their little hipster organic salsa is better than Angryman Salsa! Their skinny jeans must be too tight! Shame on them just as much as I case SHAME on you! …..

When…..sorry. I don’t know what got into me just then. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes he comes out in me. But then again anyone who has tasted his salsa knows that he lives deep within them too. Because it is impossible to taste from the chalice of greatness and then turn away, or ever worse…. Go back to eating any other salsa than Angryman. So what is Angry Man Salsa? It is a stinkin attitude. It is a tough nosed code of conduct that everyone desires deep down. It is a mentality of greatness. The Angry Man is all of us! He is that little fire deep down in your soul that tells you that you want the best. And that is what AngryMan is about. Its about showing people greatness while inspiring people to fight for their own! Viva Angryman!!!!!!

Seth C: In 2013, you retired to focus on the two things above, painting and salsa (or picante). Was it tough for you to make that decision, or is this a situation where you are doing something that you love so it is an incredibly easy decision?

Baron Batch: Walking away from football was one of the easiest decisions I have ever had to make, and that’s how I know it was the correct one. Every day I get to make things for people that will last longer than I do. Being an artist allows me to leave a legacy that few people get to. It allows my voice to carry further than I can ever take it. There is no doubt in my mind everything that has happened up to this point has been bringing me to this, bringing me to my purpose. And I have found it now. Football was the shovel that allowed me to exhume my buried passion. And once I found my passion the shovel no longer was needed.

Seth C: You recently had a pretty interesting Twitter response regarding players receiving payment. We've have a pretty good discussion about this on our site. Lots of fans acknowledge that it seems wholly inappropriate for football players not to receive some compensation for the product that earns the athletic department so much money, while others feel that the college education, tutoring and the other things that college athletes receive is enough compensation. This is really a broad topic that could go 100 different way, but generally speaking, where do you stand on the issue regarding the topic of student-athletes vs. the NCAA?

Baron Batch: I think the biggest problem is that fact that people see this as a broad problem. I don’t believe that it is something that can go 100 ways. I think what it boils down to is that there is always a right way, and a wrong way. A good way, and a bad way. People confuse the different levels or severity of good and bad and associate it with another "way". Everything is a sub category of either good or bad. So with that being said I think that the real issue isn’t even being discussed. Everyone is talking about the solution to a problem that no one talks about and even fewer actually know. How can anyone fix a problem they don’t understand? Oh, I’ll tell you. They cant. So what is the problem? All I will give you is my opinion and what I believe.

All of the lights from baron batch on Vimeo.

It all boils down to personal responsibility. Does a doctor get paid to be a doctor before he is a doctor? No. Because that’s stupid. Does an engineer get paid to be an engineer before he is one? No. Because that’s stupid. So why should a college football player be paid as a professional before he is a professional? He shouldn’t. Yes college football is a big time business, but so is college in general. And there is no way that you can tell me the kid who is working their way through school to be an engineer damn sure doesn’t want to be paid for being an engineer before he actually is one. Everyone wants things that they haven’t earned. I think the discussion as to weather athletes should be getting paid is irrelevant. I think the bigger question is, how did it get to the point where we are talking about this. When did education lose value? When did money become the answer to a human condition of laziness and entitlement? It hasn’t nor will it ever. It is the condition of the student athlete that has made them feel like they deserve to be paid. And the condition is the problem, not the questions about a solution. Why is it that college athletes are herded into classes that they wont ever use or degrees that they know they will never benefit from? How is that acceptable? How is sabotaging a students life course acceptable? How can you say its about school, and knowingly enroll student athletes in majors that just allow them to get by? So how can the argument be made that someone who really is a poor employee be paid by an employer that promotes their own employees laziness? Like I said. It is the condition of the institution that needs to be questioned and not the payroll of its "employees". The question is arbitrary. The condition is everything. And in my firm opinion I believe that until the condition is corrected money can never mend the problem.

Seth C: I've never had the opportunity to ask a former NFL player about the advice that they get as they enter the league, especially estate planning advice (a Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, Attorney in Fact). As a guy that does estate planning for a living (DISCLAIMER -- I am not trying to represent anyone -- END OF DISCLAIMER), this is something that always interests me in knowing how much education players receive in regards how they plan for the rest of their life.

I have seen it so many times when a guy realized that after being done. It is devastating. Imagine realizing that your entire future and potential was sabotaged because you trusted someone to handle all your little things? The person who controls the little things to someone controls their life. I wish more athletes understood that. -Baron Batch on athletes at the end of their careers

Baron Batch: This answer is ties into the previous question and goes with it perfectly. Most players know about the same amount they did as a college freshman as they do going into their rookie year regarding all of those topics, and the amount that most guys know is nothing. At best you are told to trust someone smarter than you to handle such affairs instead of being encouraged to learn it yourself and understand it as well. I have always been a non-conformist so I choose to learn everything myself because I don’t trust many people. Mainly because I know that they probably blindly trusted someone else to teach them everything that they know, instead of learning it and testing it themselves. It hard to trust people when they don’t even know who they really are because they simply have never really wanted to know, or dare say ask one of the few people who actually knows the answer, themselves. The reason most athletes don’t know anything about any of that is because like most people the entirety of an athletes career they have been coddled, or told that someone will handle the little things for them, and to focus on the big things. The reason athletes go broke is because of this mentality. It is the same mentality that childishly screams "Pay me now!" It is the voice of the irresponsible ones that were tricked into believing that the little things don’t matter in life, but only the big things. Can you imagine the danger of living in a house where none of the little things mattered when they were building it? Pretty dangerous place I would imagine. How much more dangerous is it to live a life where the little things never mattered because of something that you did. Or because you ran a fast 40 yard dash or can jump high? Imagine when you are slow and cannot jump high any longer. You are left with a pile of "little unused things" surrounded by collapsing walls. I have seen it so many times when a guy realized that after being done. It is devastating. Imagine realizing that your entire future and potential was sabotaged because you trusted someone to handle all your little things? The person who controls the little things to someone controls their life. I wish more athletes understood that. Like I said before, it is not the solution as much as it is really simply understanding the problem. Because at the end of the day it comes back to personal responsibility. No one can fix the condition but the individual. And that should be what the institutions of the NCAA and NFL should be doing to help. Not seeking solutions to the problem that will never end, but ending the problem before it starts.

Seth C: I've been lucky enough to talk to a couple of folks that are involved in the Double T Varsity Club, which is the letterwinner's association. Everyone that I talk to says that Rodney Allison is doing wonders with connecting with former student-athletes and making a concerted effort to make sure that they know that letterwinners are always welcome in Lubbock. What's been your experience thus far? Also, is it accurate to say that head coach Kliff Kingsbury has helped get everyone pulling together?

Baron Batch: Its unlike anything that I have ever seen done at tech since I got there. It was almost strange being back for some of the events and seeing how many people showed up to them. I think everyone was thinking "I know this is supposed to be normal, but it isn’t." And I mean that in a good way. Its something that has been lacking and that is no longer the case. I think its amazing what Kliff has done for the program. As a football coach his resume speaks for itself but I think I appreciate him as an ambassador for the school even more. Im always seeing tech in the press and that is a new thing that Kliff has done a great job of. He’s made Tech nationally relevant, and to other demographics of people that may have not even known tech existed. Its an exciting time.

Seth C: What does it mean to you to be a Red Raider?

Baron Batch: To be tough. To be dependable. To be honorable. To work hard. To fail. To get up. To Succeed. To win. To be humble. To return. To help someone else do the same.

Thank you Baron for taking the time to answer these questions. You can check out Baron's site at BaronBatch, you can follow him on Twitter @BaronBatch, and you can buy salsa (or maybe it is picante) at Angry Man Salsa.