This might be a stretch, but be patient.
What does a West Texas cotton farmer have in common with an NFL running back?
Not much, you’d guess, and you’d likely be right.
A cotton farmer would be hard-pressed to run the 40 in 4.4 seconds or less.
But an NFL running back would have a tough time figuring out how to calibrate a planter or a highboy sprayer.
A cotton farmer might find it hard to dodge and weave around 300-pound defensive tackles and linebackers only slightly lighter and twice as fast.
But an NFL running back might find it hard to maneuver a cotton stripper in position to dump into the module builder without backing up and starting over three or four times.
A cotton farmer might not appreciate the hard knocks and late hits that an NFL running back endures every week during football season.
But that running back might find it difficult to get up before dawn and not get back to the house, much less back in the sack, before midnight during planting or harvest or most any other time that an irrigation system fails or a storm is coming and the crop has to be picked before it hits.
So, one can assume professional football players and Texas cotton farmers have nothing in common. Well maybe they do. Baron Batch thinks so. It’s adversity.
Batch, a former running back for the Texas Tech Red Raiders and now a Pittsburg Steeler, has seen his share of misfortune — broken bones, a less than ideal childhood, being placed on waivers — but he says that doesn’t make him particularly special.
“Farmers know there will be another drought,” Batch said during the recent Plains Cotton Growers 56th annual meeting in Lubbock. “They know they will hit another bump in the road.”
But it’s not the hard times that define a person. It’s how he responds to those rough spots. Batch broke his arm — “snapped it in two,” he says, “near the end of last season.” And folks talk to him about ‘a comeback.’ “I don’t like the word ‘comeback,’” he said. That term, he believes, comes with a bagful of expectations, that, if not met, leaves a person feeling even worse than when he got hurt or when the hail storm ruined his cotton crop.
“The process is important,” Batch said, “the process of going through adversity. I don’t focus on ‘the comeback,’ but the process. The process is growth. I’ve had a broken arm, a broken ankle and a damaged knee. I got through it and at the end of the day it was not about looking back, saying I was proud of myself.
“The best part of adversity is that people watch you and see how you respond. Some of those people you never meet, but you make an impression.”
He said farmers deal with adversity all the time and they don’t necessarily “come back” to where they were before but they accept what happens, adjust and go on.
“If we live life, we leave finger prints that will stay,” he said. “I just want to create something that will outlive me.”
Batch said has faith. He understands that football can be gone in a split second, the time it takes for a hard hit to ruin a knee. He also knows that if that happens, he’ll be all right. He’s more than a football player.
He paints, he writes, he talks to people and, just by listening to him and observing his demeanor for a few minutes, you know he’s telling the truth.
I’ve never been much of a Steelers fan—still not, but after listening to this young man, I became a big fan of Baron Batch.