What: Mariano Rivera of Panama and Edgar Martinez of Puerto Rico are among the Latinos on the 2019 National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot released this week.
Why it matters: Hall of Fame selection can boost the national and international profiles of these great stars outside of baseball, making them more attractive to business partners.
Reflecting the growth of Hispanic players on MLB (@MLB) and Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) rosters throughout the game over the past few decades, the 2019 National Baseball Hall of Fame (@baseballhall) ballot, released this week, includes numerous players born in Latin American countries, both newcomers and returners among the potential selections for Baseball Writers’ Association of America (@officialBBWAA) voting members to ponder. The election results will be announced on Jan. 22.
The top name, and most likely honoree, is Mariano Rivera (@MarianoRivera), who would be the second native of Panama elected (Rod Carew, chosen in 1991 on his first ballot attempt with 91% of the vote, was the first). Some are saying Rivera, the game’s all-time saves leader with 652, five World Series titles and a minuscule 0.70 ERA in 141 post-season innings, may be the first unanimous selection, as his off-field demeanor, charity work and universal respect among peers and fans make him one of the best candidates ever to possibly reach that threshold (Ken Griffey Jr.‘s 99.3% in 2016 and Tom Seaver‘s 98.8% in 1992 are the closest anyone has come).
Rivera made nearly $170 million in salary in his 19-year career, all with the Yankees (@Yankees). And while his more reserved personality may not have led to flashy spokesman opportunities, astute businesses like Bank of America (@BankofAmerica), The Hartford (@TheHartford) insurance and insole provider OrthoLite (@OrthoLite) have partnered with the all-time great, who turns 49 on November 29.
The other Latino who stands a strong chance of election is Edgar Martínez, in his 10th and final year on the BBWAA ballot. Born in New York but raised in Dorado, Puerto Rico, the 18-year member of the Seattle Mariners has steadily risen up the Hall of Fame voting, reaching 70.4% last year, a far cry from the 36.2% he received on his first ballot in 2010 and the low of 25.2% in 2014. Also known as a solid citizen and exemplary role model, the designated hitter/third baseman has been less in demand by national sponsors, something that could change with his Hall selection. Though he did do a fine job in this local Seattle hardware spot:
“The list of players who have impacted not just teams and the sport, but communities is really amazing this year,” said Ray Negron, longtime New York Yankees advisor who works with dozens of Latino athletes and celebrities. “As this segment of the population continues to be more impactful in the business of sports, these are the guys who can make the biggest difference, especially when you add on ‘Hall of Fame’ to their resume.”
The Portada Brand-Sports Summit in Los Angeles on March 15, 2019 (Hotel Loews Santa Monica) will provide a unique setting for brand marketers to learn about the opportunities sports and soccer content offers to engage consumers in the U.S. and Latin America.
Omar Vizquel of Venezuela (second year on the ballot), Sammy Sosa (seventh) and Manny Ramirez (third) of the Dominican Republic are the others born in Latin America returning to the ballot. While all considered to be long shots this time around (and with Sosa and Ramirez having the additional burden of past PED use on their respective resumes), business prospects for the three are not particularly strong.
Among the first-timers on the ballot, besides Rivera, are Freddy Garcia (Venezuela), Miguel Tejada and Placido Polanco (Dominican Republic), who all had solid careers but who will likely struggle to achieve the 5% of votes needed to remain on the ballot next year.
Several Latin Americans have earned selection in recent years, increasing their profiles. Vladimir Guerrero (2018), Ivan Rodriguez (2017) and Pedro Martínez (2015) all took their spots in Cooperstown to great acclaim. None have had landmark business partnerships though Martínez has remained highly visible in his analyst role on MLB Network, for which he has earned high marks.
Would enshrinement mean more partnership opportunities for Rivera and Edgar? Both are well-known within baseball, and Rivera’s New York connection and World Series success have given him a wider audience outside the game. But Martínez possesses a lot of the same traits, and the attention that Hall selection would afford could push brands to take a second look at this potential marketing standout.
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Cover image: credit Keith Allison