(This originally appeared on the PG Plates blog)
On the week that his former teammates are preparing for the game that may ultimately decide the fate of their season, ex-Steelers running back Baron Batch is having a rather big one of his own -- making salsa.
"Yeah, it's going man. Getting a huge run of it for Black Friday. We’re doing 300 jars, so that's a bunch of work."
Those jars are for his fledgling company, Angry Man Salsa. It's probably not how he anticipated spending Thanksgiving week back in the summer when he was on the Saint Vincent practice fields still trying to make the team. But after finding himself among the odd men out for the team's 53-man roster, his post-football were suddenly here.
Like they say, when life gives you tomatoes, make salsa. Or something like that.
But this didn't happen on a whim. Mr. Batch has been perfecting the recipe for years, and the business plan has been a year in the making.
"I’ve always kind of made it but was always messing with the recipe, but then I got it perfect. When I was playing with the Steelers, I gave it to some of the guys with the equipment staff as a thank you and they tried and were like, 'This is great.' Then some guys on the team tried it and they loved it, too. They were like, 'This is the best salsa I've ever had.' "
He won't let on to trade secrets, but says, "It’s just simply more and better ingredients than regular salsa. Twice as many as regular salsa. And twice as good."
Consistent rave reviews from friends here in Pittsburgh and back in Texas (Mr. Batch is a native of Lubbock) prodded him to explore further production.
"About a year ago, I started with a branding and concept, and then worked with a company in Dallas to bring it together. This was all thought out and planned very specifically," he said.
He didn’t want to put his name on the product, trading on his brief bit of fleeting NFL fame. "I wanted the product to speak for itself." The name loosely comes from a nickname he got playing football, because he "ran angry," he said, but the Angry Man has developed into a full-fledged character of his own, as he explains.
"The legend of Angry Man -- everybody has an old uncle or a grandpa [who's] a little bit of a crazy person, but there's an applicable wisdom to what they say. He's not necessarily mean. He kind of represents everybody. He wants to fight for great things. And it’s an exclusive product, so you have to fight to get it" in the small releases he's done so far.
He's sold out of every jar that he's made thus far with friends Chad Calcagno and another former Steeler and Pitt and Franklin-Regional star lineman, John Malecki, despite a steep sticker price of $20 a jar. At 9 a.m. on Friday, 300 16-ounce jars will go on sale at angrymansalsa.com.
And Mr. Batch said he doesn’t regret that he's not preparing for a showdown with Baltimore Thanksgiving night and is happy in his new endeavors.
"Football was great. And I love Pittsburgh. I love it to death. I bought a house here and realized it could be here great to be based out of Pittsburgh.
"One of my friends was like, 'What if a team called you, would you keep doing what you're doing?' Well, the Packers called [yesterday]. I said, 'I have salsa to make.' I've hung it up. It's OK. I'm pretty sure this is it for me. My time is more valuable than any amount of money."
He elaborated on the story: "The guy said, 'Good news -- we’ll fly you in,' and I'm thinking I haven't even agreed to anything. It was just like this assumed thing. It was so funny to explain -- that I run a high-end, exclusive salsa business. He was like, 'Ooookay.' But someday when the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl is called the Angry Man Bowl, that guy from the Packers will be like, 'That's the crazy dude who said he wasn't coming for the workout.' "