Ex-Steeler Batch Turned Personal Loss Into Mission
Discusses charitable work at Light of the Valley event
WHEELING — “Dreams are nothing more than plans awaiting action.”
That was the opening quote from former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch during Wednesday’s YMCA Light of the Valley luncheon at the White Palace.
Batch, who spent 11 seasons behind center for his hometown Steelers, was the invited guest as Jim and Linda Bordas were named the Lights of the Valley by the YMCA.
The YMCA has a special place in Batch’s heart so when he met Jamie Bordas. president of the YMCA Board of Directors, back in February, coming to be the guest speaker was a no-brainer.
“(Jamie) was keeping tabs on what I was doing throughout the year and asked if I would come down here and speak,” Batch said. “I don’t think he realized that I had an affiliation with the YMCA so it was good to add that into my speech as well.
“Just the importance of the YMCA with their beliefs and their mission, it was an easy choice for me.”
Batch, who grew up in Homestead and went on to quarterback at Eastern Michigan, told of a story of his 17-year-old sister Danyl, who was killed while he was in college.
On his way home, he saw blood on the street — two blocks away from his home. It was where the guy she was with used her as a shield in a gang-related attack.
Since then, Batch has used that as motivation.
He got his degree from Eastern Michigan, the first in his family to graduate college. He made it a mission to be drafted into the NFL, a dream that became a reality when the Detroit Lions took him in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft.
Then he started his Best of the Batch Foundation in 1999 in Detroit.
“When I came to Pittsburgh in 2002, I thought that would be my only season here so I wanted to start a program that was going to make an impact and the easiest way for me to do that was with basketball,” Batch said.
Basketball? From an NFL quarterback?
“Football is a day camp or only a week in the summer,” Batch said. “I needed something that would tire these kids out the whole summer. I did that. We started a basketball league with 125 kids, 25 volunteers and did it for seven weeks out of the summer.
“Now here we are, 15 years later, and we have 365 kids in that program. Just imagine bringing all these communities together. Bringing that violence into Homestead. People said ‘you are crazy for bringing them into Homestead.’ Fifteen years and I’ve only had one fight and that was two little girls fighting over a little boy that both claimed they were going with.”
Batch was named the 2013 Byron “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year for his charitable work, as well as the first recipient of the Jerome Bettis Award for humanity and community service.
He has kept pretty busy since retiring from the NFL in 2013 after throwing for 11,085 yards, 61 passing touchdowns and, most importantly, two Super Bowl rings.
Along with his charity work, Batch can be heard alongside Bob Pompeani on KDKA for Steelers’ preseason games. Batch was preparing to leave for New Orleans as the Steelers take on the Saints at 8 p.m. tonight at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“I don’t miss it anymore now, and my body thanks me for it,” Batch said. “This is my fourth year out now so that answer could have been a little different three years ago. Mentally I think ‘maybe I could’ but physically the body goes ‘no.’ I love being on the broadcast side and getting to stay a part of the game that way.
“I get to go back to what I was originally, and that is a fan.”
The Steelers are a popular Super Bowl pick this season, and Batch knows there will be only one team that could stand in their way.
“They should be solid and if everybody stays healthy, the worst-case scenario is the Steelers should be in the AFC Championship game,” Batch said. “A lot it depends on that New England game (Oct. 23). If they win that game, the AFC Championship game will be here.”