When St. Louis Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter went on a hot streak last month, hitting eight home runs in six games, he credited his homemade salsa recipe with giving him the powers to do so.
Since then, he’s coined the slogan “It’s Gotta Be the Salsa,” and the phenomenon took on a life of its own as his team surged back into the playoff race.
But there’s another player in baseball who’s been quietly fueled by the spicy sauce. One who’s posting MVP-caliber numbers. One who stands only 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, told as a young man that he could never be great. One who’s on track to become the first player to finish in the league’s top three in home runs and steals for the first time in over four decades.
Yes, José Ramírez, too, is powered by salsa. But not just any salsa – the unlikely Cleveland Indians superstar has his own brand for sale in Ohio (also available online), and a portion of his proceeds go back to Cleveland causes, including the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cleveland Baseball Federation and the Boys & Girls Club of Cleveland.
It comes in two varieties, medium and mild, and is named after the chant Indians fans use in his honor.
Ramirez was excited to land a deal almost as unique as he is.
“When my agent [Wasserman’s Rafa Nieves] brought the idea to me, I liked it from the start,” Ramírez told Yahoo Sports via email. “I was surprised and excited by the idea since it’s not something I have seen other athletes do.”
The deal came to fruition last year, officially launching in stores on opening day. It was a joint effort between Wasserman and Barnstorm Marketing Group, which specializes in producing athlete and celebrity-endorsed products (including Cleveland manager Terry Francona’s red sauce).
But this is more than an endorsement – Ramírez himself was involved in perfecting the recipe, making sure the product was something he would actually enjoy.
“I grew up eating salsa in the Dominican Republic. It’s always been part of my diet,” Ramírez said. “I was VERY involved in the taste-testing process (the best part) – from the ingredients, to the flavors, to the two different versions we settled on. It was important we came up with something I would eat, and hopefully others do too. Everyone who eats it says they like it – at least to my face – so I think we did a good job.”
While Ramírez is on par skill-wise with the biggest stars in the game today, what he lacks is the name and face recognition. Whether that is because he plays in a smaller market like Cleveland or because of his swift ascent – or something else entirely – we can’t be sure. So Wasserman looked to his personality for inspiration.
“The way we approach marketing, there’s different avenues, and I think the first avenue speaks to this deal. We really want to get to know our clients, and their passion points – what they like, what they’re passionate about,” explained Ted Yeschin, Wasserman vice president of marketing, who also recently finalized a deal for a Brian Scalabrine red sauce in Boston. “I see the salsa space and this creative partnership as a fun, lovable partnership. Everyone loves salsa, it brings people together in fun ways, and baseball does the same thing.”
And so too does the effortlessly endearing Ramírez, by sharing a a product he loves with the people he loves.
“Of course I eat it, it’s the only salsa I eat,” Ramírez joked. “I passed it around the clubhouse too. Edwin [Encarnación] is probably the guy I give the most to.”
Ramírez sends it home to the Dominican as well: “My family and friends say they like it and keep asking for more.”
The brand even has its own Twitter handle, which isn’t afraid to throw some punches for its namesake.
Boom. Again. Take that Betts and Trout. pic.twitter.com/Qv7eyQQ1w6
— Jose Ramirez Salsa (@JoseJoseSalsa) August 5, 2018
After signing a multi-year extension in 2017, Ramírez certainly isn’t trying to retire on his salsa income – he’s happy to just give back to his community.
“It means a lot to me – the fans in Cleveland have embraced me in my time here, and I see this as a way to say thank you to them,” he said. “This product is not about making money for me personally, so if we can help out some worthy charities in some small way, it makes it that much better.”
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