St. John Bosco Medal is the highest honor
If you ask Steve Battiato why he enjoys coaching youth sports so much, the longtime mentor will quickly reply that the kids are a lot more fun than most adults. And the children will probably say the same about him.
It’s that commitment to coaching that earned him the St. John Bosco Medal, the highest honor that the Indianapolis Archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization bestows. The award’s namesake was a 19th-century priest in Turin, Italy, who dedicated his life to the betterment and education of disadvantaged youth. Bosco established a network of organizations to carry on his work and was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1934.
Recognized May 6 in front of 20 family members and other guests at SS. Peter & Paul Cathedral, Battiato has been a coach for about 30 years. He officiated kickball before coaching it, volleyball, soccer and boys and girls basketball at St. Barnabas Catholic School – where he served as kickball coordinator – Baxter YMCA, St. Francis Soccer Alliance and Mount Pleasant Christian Church. But kickball is at the top of his list. “Kickball is the greatest game in the world,” he said.
Battiato, 49, has been active in Boy Scouts for 39 years, the last 31 as a leader. He serves as Cubmaster of Pack 265 at Our Lady of the Greenwood. He and his sons, Alex and Danny, are Eagle Scouts, the highest honor attainable in Scouting.
A dream job for him would be to work at a Scout camp in the summer. “Scouting provides boys of all abilities the opportunity to achieve,” he said. “The yardstick in Scouting is doing your best.”
He enjoyed coaching his sons and daughter Laura, who “was an awesome kickball pitcher – best I ever coached.” When she entered high school and joined her dad on the sidelines as his assistant, coaching took on a new perspective for Battiato.
“Coaching became our time together. We coached many seasons of kickball and volleyball, mostly at St. Barnabas,” said Battiato.
“I think Laura tolerates me,” he laughed. “It’s such a blessing to coach with her. She has done an awesome job of giving of her time and energy. That’s an amazing attribute when considering her age. I really enjoy the unique time we are able to spend together through coaching. We have shared a lot of laughs, and we have had some heated arguments, but it’s a real treat. That is why I keep doing it.”
While the two have enjoyed many special seasons, last fall might have been the most memorable as they had the opportunity to start a kickball program at Padua Academy at St. Anthony’s Catholic Parish on the Near Northwestside.
Laura hand-painted Padua Academy on the team’s shirts, and the field was painted through the help of volunteers from Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. “Other teams agreed to play at our field so we could make sure enough girls made the games on time,” said Battiato. “It was a community effort. The simplicity of the T-shirts and a couple of kickballs took me back to the days when life was less complicated.”
In addition to his coaching duties, each of Battiato’s teams completes a service project and goes to Mass as a group once a season. This just adds to the experience, he said. “We hope our players get better; we hope they become better teammates, and we hope they make a new friend or two along the way.”
CYO Executive Director Ed Tinder said Battiato uses sports to teach that faith is a part of everyone’s lives. “He is the very best of the best CYO volunteers.”
Since Laura, 20, an intern with Rook Security, will travel to Italy in September for a yearlong job as a nanny and won’t be around to coach, Battiato is taking a year off and will don his officiating attire. The two plan to team up again on the sideline when the timing is right.
Danny, 22, will also be in Italy this fall through a program offered by Indiana University Kelly School of Business.
Alex, 24, is a recently married information technologist.
While Battiato is a busy person, he paces himself and only does a few things at a time. “You won’t find me out at the bars.”
The youngest of nine children, he was raised near Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Reared by his divorced mom, he has few memories of his father. His mother worked three jobs and smiled a lot but never disciplined him enough, according to his siblings.
Battiato, a graduate of Roncalli, the University of Indianapolis and Indiana Wesleyan, is president of Indy Teledata, which provides an array of computer and phone services to small businesses. He’s assisted in the endeavor by wife Lisa, also a UIndy grad, and brother Joe.
Receiving the award was humbling and a little embarrassing for Battiato.
Upon being notified of the honor, he saluted everyone who had played an influential role in his life via an email letter.
“Nobody needed to do this for me. Why me? I haven’t done anything extraordinary. I have done what was expected of me as a son, a parent, a Catholic, a member of the community.”