[UPDATE: SAJA to host a live webcast with Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel on Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008, 1-2 pm New York time; 10-11 am LA time (where they are now) and 11:30 pm-12:30 am India time. Also joining us JB Bernstein, managing director of Million Dollar Arm, who discovered them and Jim Trdinch, media relations manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Recording of webcast : http://www.sajaforum.org/2008/11/webcast-rinku-singh-and-dinesh-patel-two-baseballers-from-india.html ]
My friend Hemant Wadhwani wrote in to say: "As a baseball fan, this is really exciting to see..."
He was talking about this piece of news out of Pittsburgh: Two young men from India were signed to contracts by the Pittsburgh Pirates to play baseball (first in the minor-league affiliates of the Pirates, and then, if they are good enough, for the actual Pirates team itself). Whether Rinku Singh (left) and Dinesh Kumar Patel - who have been learning English and baseball by watching ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" since coming to the U.S. in May - make it to the big league will depend on their skills, talent and lots of luck.
Singh and Patel are the first-ever Indian-born players to sign a professional sports contract outside of the country, which has a population of more than 1.1 billion people. [Editor's note: see an update about this point below from Gulu Ezekiel, one of India's top sportswriters.]
The announcement was made by Pirates senior vice president, general manager Neal Huntington.
"The Pirates are committed to creatively adding talent to our organization. By adding these two young men, we are pleased to not only add two prospects to our system but also hope to open a pathway to an untapped market," said Huntington. "We are intrigued by Patel's arm strength and Singh's frame and potential. These young men have improved a tremendous amount in their six month exposure to baseball and we look forward to helping them continue to fulfill their potential."
Singh and Patel, who worked out in front of scouts from the Pirates and other Major League organizations on November 12 at the University of Southern California, emerged as the top two participants of the "Million Dollar Arm" contest in India. The contest concluded its first ever edition this past March and had more than 30,000 entries. The winner of the contest was based on what person could throw the most pitches 85 miles per hour or faster for strikes.
Singh, who was born in Bhadoni, Uttar Pradesh, India, is the youngest of nine children in his family. Patel, who was born in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India, comes from a family of five brothers and sisters. Both Singh and Patel learned English by watching Baseball Tonight and also by taking online classes when they came to the United States beginning in May.
These would be the first India-born men to play one of the four major team sports (baseball, football, basketball and ice hockey) in the U.S. The only players with South Asian connections have been (none were born in South Asia):
- Manny Malhotra, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers (ice hockey)
- read a story that about Malhotra's impact on the South Asian community
- Brandon O'Neill Chillar, Green Bay Packers, St. Louis Rams (football)
- Sanjay Rajiv Beach, San Francisco 49ers (football)
- Bobby Singh, St. Louis Rams (football - the only player, perhaps, to be on the teams to win an NFL Super Bowl, a Canadian Football League Grey Cup and an XFL championship; thanks to Debasish Mishra alert in the comments section below.)
[who are we missing?]
Post your comments below.
Just last week, SAJA sent out an e-mail about the fundraising efforts of First Pitch, a New York-based organization raising money to support baseball in the northeast Indian state of Manipur. See that e-mail - and contact info - below.
Fundraiser for First Pitch
Come support baseball in Manipur, India!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
6:30pm - 9:00pm
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
547 West 27th Street
Contact Info Phone:
On behalf of Muriel Peters, Somi Roy, and the rest of the Board, I
want to invite you to a wine reception in support of First Pitch.
First Pitch is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to supporting baseball
among the youth of Manipur in the Eastern Himalayas of India.
Over the past two years we've held two coaching camps in Manipur led
by MLB envoys, begun the process of building the first baseball
stadium in South Asia, and have initiated a partnership with a large
baseball-based community non-profit in NYC called Harlem RBI to do an
annual player exchange. A documentary is being filmed concurrently
about our activities.
In 2009, we're going to hold our third annual MLB led coaching camp in
April and hoping to have our first player exchange with Harlem RBI.
We're planning to have about 5-10 high school players come over in
August to attend a baseball camp run by RBI. It's going to be an
amazing opportunity for these kids.
At this event, you'll have an opportunity to learn more about our
activities and view footage from the documentary. The suggested
minimum donation for the event is $50. I'm working on adding an online
payment facility. At the event, we'll be accepting cash and checks
made out to "First Pitch."