Over the past few of his 15-year career in the NFL, you might see Charlie Batch with a headset in street clothes on the Steelers sideline imparting his pearls of wisdom among their franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, during a game.
With the clock ticking on his durable NFL journey, he’s found other things to do with a similar headset. He’s appeared on various local radio and television broadcasts, as a high school football color analyst. The former radio version of the Charlie Batch Show that aired on NewsTalk 104.7 tackled various issues that pertain to the sport that he’s loved for decades, until his show was discontinued after one year. It was, still, on to bigger and better things for the humanitarian and community mentor in his quest to become a successful player-gone-broadcaster. Regardless of his success in media, Batch is also busy helping the youth of his native Homestead through his ‘Best of Batch’ Foundation. (www.batchfoundation.org)
“I’ve been very fortunate for some of the opportunities that I’ve been afforded in media and otherwise,” Batch said. “It has been something that I’ve thoroughly liked to do. Who knows, it could be something that I’ll be able to do beyond playing the game.”
The bulk of his secondary career obligations take place while the season is in progress. He has also represented the Steelers as spokesperson for the United Way Kickoff program. Working with the United Way he may give as little as 10 or as many as 20 speeches per season.
“When football season starts, needless to say, my life gets pretty hectic because I do still have to focus on my day job,” the 38 year old said. “But doing all of this and seeing what it’s turned into truly makes it worth the effort.”
Most recently, Batch has taken his post on the television version of his former radio program’s namesake, which is now a show on the Pittsburgh Cable News Channel (or PCNC, which is the cable arm of WPXI-TV Pittsburgh).
“His show has been an incredible addition to our programming,” PCNC station manager Mark Barash said. “He does a great job explaining his points of view and transitioning his thoughts from an experience standpoint. I believe Charlie definitely has a future in this.” The show airs every Friday at 7:30 p.m. and at the same time, Saturday, also with an additional 11:00 p.m. airing.
“He answers questions insightfully and with eloquence,” Gerry Dulac, the Post-Gazette reporter who was Batch’s co-host on the old NewsTalk 104.7 show said. “It’s natural for him to articulately expound his points clearly.”
His dynamic schedule of media appearances includes being part of the WDVE 102.5 Morning Show with longtime host Randy Baumann on Tuesdays.
Also, if he is in the area, ROOT Sports features him during their Thursday night broadcasts of WPIAL football games, in which the Steel Valley alum imparts his knowledge of that landscape to its viewers.
Batch’s first work as a color analyst came with the Champs Sports Network and their coverage of Western Pennsylvania high school football.
“Being able to share what I’ve learned about the game for the hometown crowd has been such an awesome thing,” Batch said. “Especially since high school football is such a big deal around here, it’s really such a fun thing for me to do when I have the time.”
The league hosts an annual effort to help current and former players transition into careers in broadcast after their playing days. It’s hosted in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, the home of NFL films, where participants hone their skills behind-the-camera in rigorous fashion for three days. These sessions are facilitated by guys who have either played or coached the game.
“By the time I came back from boot camp, I had went through each of the different phases that media has to offer,” he added. “I was a host, a play-by-guy, a color analyst… I was pretty much all of the things that you see (former players) do when they move into the media field.”
Taking a look at all of the major networks that regularly cover football, to see an athlete trade in their jersey and cleats for a tailored suit and microphone isn’t uncommon.
Dulac believes that the man who lines up under center is one that is likely to experience success on a television sports show. For example, CBS Sports’ weekly NFL coverage boasts three former QBs, with fellow Pittsburgh native Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason on their program, ‘The NFL Today’, that offers news and commentary on the League’s daily issues. The network also has former New York Giants great Phil Simms as a color analyst, paired with veteran Jim Nantz for their weekly top game broadcasts.
Also, to the likes of ESPN’s Monday Night Football analysts Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden– both former signal callers– Batch has caught the attention, locally, of his media parallels and superiors with his progression in what could potentially be his job after football.
“Quarterbacks are a different personality,” Dulac said. “They’re used to screaming things in the huddle. They’re usually well spoken and able to combine all factors of a matter so that they are more apt to be insightful than the average football player.”
Before leaving Pittsburgh to begin, what’s been a 17-year career, at the network that has pridefully referred to itself as the ‘Worldwide leader in Sports’, Merril Hoge took a similar path as Batch to begin his journey, behind the camera.
Hoge played eight NFL seasons after being a 10th round draft pick of the Steelers in 1987. He was a member of the Chicago Bears for one year and retired after the ‘94 campaign, early, due to a long-lived battle with head trauma. Since his mid-90s arrival, he’s hosted ESPN programs such as NFL Match Up, NFL Sunday Night Countdown and SportsCenter.
“After retiring from the league in 1994, I came back to Pittsburgh to work for WTAE,” Hoge said. “I was the first color analyst that worked in the booth with Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play commentator) and Myron Cope (legendary colorman).”
“Charlie is doing all of the things that he needs to do to position himself for a career in media,” Hoge said. “What a lot of ex-players don’t understand is that this is still work. You have to put in your fair share of hours before you hit that set.”
Batch has already had his fair share of face time on the big network, making guest appearances on ESPN’s First Take with Skip Bayless via satellite and, most recently, on Dan ‘Le Batard’s ‘Highly Questionable’ where the Miami Herald columnist attacks various issues along with his Cuban-born father, Gonzalo.
“It’s great being involved in those programs and such an honor to be called upon,” Batch said. “It was kind of cool because both times, they set up at the facility and it was taped here in Pittsburgh. I mean, what can I say? It’s just a ton of fun.”
During the program, LeBatard, in his usual colorful style, questioned Batch about his emotional reaction after the December 2nd Steelers victory on the road against their hated rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, in what could have been the last start of his career. He asked him if he was crying.
As kicker Shaun Suisham’s 42-yard field goal split the uprights, several cameras caught Batch and injured starter Roethlisberger in an embrace on the sidelines. In reply to LeBatard’s question, Batch said, “Yes, there were tears.”
The classy Batch admitted to getting caught up in the intense aftermath of a performance in which the wily veteran threw for 276 yards on 25 of 36 passing, including a 7-yard touchdown toss to Heath Miller in the fourth quarter.
Gearing toward his life after football, Batch has recently launched his personal website, charliebatch.com to market all of the things that he plans to do upon walking into the sunset.
Malik Vincent has written about sport topics in the Pittsburgh area since 2008 for various publications, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Sports Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @malikvincent.