There is a First Time for Everything!

Given our people’s track record in professional sports in the United States (virtually nonexistent outside a small handful), I was pretty surprised to see the following story on the Pittsburgh Pirates signing two Indians, yes Indians, from India — Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel — as pitchers. From the article:

The two 20-year-old pitchers, neither of whom had picked up a baseball until earlier this year, signed free-agent contracts Monday with the Pirates. They are believed to be the first athletes from India to sign professional baseball contracts outside their country. Singh and Patel are believed to be first athletes from India to sign professional baseball contracts outside their country.

Patel (L) Singh (R)

I think these are probably the first Indians to sign professional baseball contracts period. I could be mistaken, but I don’t think there are even any Indian-American or South Asian American professional baseball players. The way this happened is pretty interesting. Singh and Patel came to the United States six months ago after being the top finishers in an Indian reality TV show called the “Million Dollar Arm. ” The show drew about 30,000 contestants and was trying to find athletes who could throw strikes at 85 miles per hour or faster. One would think this would be possible in a country of over a billion. Hmm, not exaclty. But while neither pitcher threw hard enough to earn the $1 million prize, Singh made $100,000 from the contest and Patel made $2,500, plus his trip to the United States.

And now, after working extensively with a Southern California pitching coach the two 20-year-olds staged a tryout in Tempe, Ariz., on Nov. 6 that was attended by 30 major league scouts. The two certainly have come a long way.

When they first came to the United States and began playing catch, the pitchers were mystified by the concept of gloves and had to taught not to try to catch the ball with their bare hands.

Of course this would happen in a country seized with cricket, a sport where only the wicketkeeper uses a glove. But the Pirates were pretty impressed.

“The Pirates are committed to creatively adding talent to our organization,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Monday. “By adding these two young men, the Pirates are pleased to not only add two prospects to our system but also hope to open a pathway to an untapped market. We are intrigued by Patel’s arm strength and Singh’s frame and potential.”

If these two guys actually make the team, I bet the Indian tv channels will be clamoring to get exclusive rights to air the Pirates games in India. And I think the Pirates might have a new fan base in the Hindi belt of India.

60 thoughts on “There is a First Time for Everything!

  1. Do western desi’s like baseball?

    From my experience, baseball has never caught on the way basketball has for the yound desi’s males in the west.

  2. i know pitchers are speed demons but has anyone focused on the slow ball – i mean less than 40 miles an hour. I can see batters struggling with timing. Works in cricket very well.

  3. 2 · melbourne desi said

    i know pitchers are speed demons but has anyone focused on the slow ball – i mean less than 40 miles an hour

    Knuckleballers (around 60-70 mph, compared to the 100 mph fastball) exist in baseball, although they are rarer than spin bowlers in cricket. A regular fastball pitcher is like a cricket fast ball, and their analogue to the slower delivery in cricket is the curveball, which is usually 10-15 mph slower than their fastball.

  4. You missed what I thought was the money quote in the article: “Think of them as two Dominican kids,”

  5. If these two guys actually make the team, I bet the Indian tv channels will be clamoring to get exclusive rights to air the Pirates games in India. And I think the Pirates might have a new fan base in the Hindi belt of India.

    Most Pirates game start at 7:00 Eastern which would be 4:30 in the morning the next day in India.

  6. Most Pirates game start at 7:00 Eastern which would be 4:30 in the morning the next day in India.

    True, but I know my relatives stay up late/wake up early to watch international test matches if Team India is playing in another time zone.

  7. and their analogue to the slower delivery in cricket is the curveball, which is usually 10-15 mph slower than their fastball.

    Nope. The true analogue is the change-up.

  8. 9 · jabber said

    Nope. The true analogue is the change-up.

    You’re right. The curveball is more like a cutter, I guess.

  9. One would think this would be possible in a country of over a billion. Hmm, not exaclty.

    The only way to confirm that is by making every Indian pitch a baseball :P .

  10. The two might not have been able to pitch 85 mph during the contest, but they can now, as that story and this one show. So with the billion people, it wasn’t a question of ability, just of practice, since understanding the techniques of speeding up your throw at that speed is not commonplace (Just throw harder.)

    BTW, they trained here at USC (which already has the largest number of foreign students from India), with our team’s pitching coach, and I’m sure they’re going to have at least a small following starting from this Trojan fanbase.

  11. interesting how their names just happened to be the most common indian surnames found outside of india. and theyre easy to pronounce, the umpires and commentaters must be letting out sighs of relief.

  12. 1 · Suki Dillon said

    Do western desi’s like baseball? From my experience, baseball has never caught on the way basketball has for the yound desi’s males in the west.

    I agree with you statement for the most part. However my father and his friends who first came to the US in the early 80′s gravitated towards baseball. Hence the first sport i was exposed to was baseball when I was born. I then moved to central PA where football and baseball were much bigger IMO than basketball so the very small indian population at that time there was into baseball more. But currently I only have one western desi friend that remotely likes baseball. The rest of my friends hate it.

    Hope the best for these two. I’ll be watching their development closely.

  13. i am still shocked that there could be indians in the MLB before the top flights of european football (besides dhorasoo). come on desi’s!

  14. I agree with you statement for the most part. However my father and his friends who first came to the US in the early 80′s gravitated towards baseball. Hence the first sport i was exposed to was baseball when I was born. I then moved to central PA where football and baseball were much bigger IMO than basketball so the very small indian population at that time there was into baseball more. But currently I only have one western desi friend that remotely likes baseball. The rest of my friends hate it.

    I think desi youth that are into hip-hop culture are more likely to be into basketball from what I’ve seen. I on the other hand am a Cubs fan growing up on Cubs game on the SuperStation WGN when I was younger.

  15. Since these 2 guys are on the Pirates, its means that should they ever become stars they will ended be signed by the Yankees like almost every other Pirate player that is any good.

  16. 18 · DJ Drrrty Poonjabi said

    d choose the entrance music for Patel and Singh.

    Well, you’ve got to listen to the song on the Million Dollar Arm site then!

    My approximation of the lyrics:

    I’m the cat whose job is to change the speed of your bat from Delhi to Kolkata India, they hold me down in the bleachers Chak de phat de..

    Hey batter batter hey Batter batter whaaat… Hey batter batter hey batter batter whooo?

  17. Baseball in general is not that popular among young people because MLB has done a terrible job marketing itself, but for those of us who grew up in cities that have good baseball teams it’s still an attraction.

  18. Oh yeah, and that includes some of us like myself who are into the hip hop culture and like basketball too.

  19. Baseball in general is not that popular among young people because MLB has done a terrible job marketing itself, but for those of us who grew up in cities that have good baseball teams it’s still an attraction.

    In the last half decade Baseball has comeback and passed the NBA as the number 2 sport behind the NFL.

  20. “The show drew about 30,000 contestants and was trying to find athletes who could throw strikes at 85 miles per hour or faster. One would think this would be possible in a country of over a billion. Hmm, not exaclty.”

    The two articles that I have read on this didn’t include a disparaging reference to what a billion people can or can’t do. and you absolutely had to include that one, right ?

    Patel, who has been pitching only for the last six months, has been clocked at 93 mph. Singh, in the lower 90s. Point is, pitching or bowling muscles develop the more you pitch or bowl. so, u cant expect a billion people to land up at a random tv show and pull a 102 mph fastball very often, especially when baseball is not an entirely known thing in India.

    sources

    (BBC)http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7747553.stm

    (Pirates site) http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20081124&content_id=3691650&vkey=news_pit&fext=.jsp&c_id=pit

  21. 1 · Suki Dillon said

    Do western desi’s like baseball? From my experience, baseball has never caught on the way basketball has for the yound desi’s males in the west.

    At our last collective meeting, the vote was 150161-62620 in favor of liking baseball and basketball, although resolutions against hockey and same-sex marriage also passed. wtf?! Do you understand that we’re people and are precious snowflakes, as Fark would say? For example, I want to sleep with baseball players. Many other western desi males don’t.

    Anyway, moving on 1) Yay!!! awesomeness!!! 2) Jesus how badly off are the pirates?!? Even worse than I thought 3) Why didn’t the Mets sign them last fall when they needed a f@#$@#$@#$#@$@#$##@Q$#@$@#$#@#@$@#$#@@#$ bullpen? Or really anyone? I think I could have pitched better than Aaron Heilman down the stretch. And then I wouldn’t have to listen to Phillies fans talk…ever… and 4) It’s a good thing that ship the navy sank was really a Thai trawler.

    brought to you by the western desi male.

  22. 10 · Rahul said

    You’re right. The curveball is more like a cutter, I guess.

    Wouldn’t it be a spinner? Or whatever they’re called? Is that a cutter?

  23. 1 · Suki Dillon said

    Do western desi’s like baseball? From my experience, baseball has never caught on the way basketball has for the yound desi’s males in the west.

    They care about baseball when it comes to the caps. I got my friend a LA cap for his bday, and he was like “i hate the dodgers its all about the A’s,” but I’ve never actually seen him watch or play baseball. and yes he is one of those hip-hop types.

  24. “The show drew about 30,000 contestants and was trying to find athletes who could throw strikes at 85 miles per hour or faster. One would think this would be possible in a country of over a billion. Hmm, not exaclty.”

    To be fair, I saw the highlights of the million dollar arm contest, while it was still being conducted, and the results were distinctly underwhelming. The entire underlying concept — bowling skills will translate to pitching skills was false. (Turned out there was another type of snyergy between sports — both Rinku and Patel are Javelin throwers) The videos of the various tryouts are here — http://www.themilliondollararm.com

    It is really nice to see the winners develop into real pitchers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMd-eRLJ4PE

  25. I have been saying for years that Indians should be recruited from India to play baseball. with all the cricket that goes on there, there should not be much to it.

    pankaj

  26. My brother was a starting-pitcher for his school teams in high school and college but ended up becoming and engineer and getting an MBA (sad, I know). He knew one other Indian-American who played baseball in high school and college (but this was in Illinois, with a huge Indian population, so a grand total of 2 is not impressive).

    That said, my father and all of his friends who migrated to the US in the late 60s and early 70s, definitely picked up an affinity for baseball. Even to this day my dad watches Cubs games on tv. But my uncles who came to the US in the 80s never picked up the same interest in baseball. Maybe that first wave of immigrants took to baseball as a way to assimilate. I’m sure my dad’s early American colleagues probably took him out to Cubs and White Sox games after work.

  27. indian-american bobby kahlon was a walk-on pitcher for cal’s baseball team. he was then drafted by the texas rangers in the mid-90′s, pitched a couple years in the minor leagues, and then did the brown thang and went to med school and became a doc.

  28. That said, my father and all of his friends who migrated to the US in the late 60s and early 70s, definitely picked up an affinity for baseball. Even to this day my dad watches Cubs games on tv.

    I hope one day that you dad can enjoy the Cubs winning the World series.

  29. Ok this is not contributing to the conversation productively, and it reinforces stereotypes that women only watch sports for the hotness, which is FALSE, but yet… i still must say it. helloooooo rinku singh. rowr!

  30. i think we have a shot at recruiting ken griffey jr to team brown. if you take suspected roiders out of the equation, he’s the greatest player since mantle and mays, actually probably surpassing mantle, which is a good comparison since mantle hobbled thru his 30′s too. only mays and ruth hit more homers, and i think you have to go back to the 60′s to find a player who consistently hit 40+ hrs/yr in his prime. all the roid heads posted such huge number recently thus making griffs numbers appear simply great as opposed to historic, thus denying griff his rightful place in history.

    now, i saw him once on arsenio hall. he started talking and mentioned his friend “chip” in an accent reminiscent of eddie murphy doing a white person. arsenio almost fell off his chair but caught himself to save face.

    i think we should send a represenattive. he’s vulnerable. this is very important b/c i’m losing faith in us getting obama, despite help form nader and Zawahiri. its very very unlikely blacks will kick him out as it appears we are about to witness instead a massive rightward shift in black-american politics. don’t say i didn’t warn you.

  31. 27 · DizzyDesi said

    “The show drew about 30,000 contestants and was trying to find athletes who could throw strikes at 85 miles per hour or faster. One would think this would be possible in a country of over a billion. Hmm, not exaclty.”
    To be fair, I saw the highlights of the million dollar arm contest, while it was still being conducted, and the results were distinctly underwhelming. The entire underlying concept — bowling skills will translate to pitching skills was false. (Turned out there was another type of snyergy between sports — both Rinku and Patel are Javelin throwers) The videos of the various tryouts are here — http://www.themilliondollararm.com It is really nice to see the winners develop into real pitchers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMd-eRLJ4PE

    I remember some baseball teams offering the great javelin thrower Jan Zelezny (sp?) tryouts. I find that interesting in American sports- they focus on athletic skills in general and then tailor it to a sport. Which is why college QB’s become WR’s and DB’s. The ability to throw the javelin is the fundamental athletic ability to throw hard- the progression to pitching (or even QB’ing) wouldn’t be farfetched.

  32. As a long suffering Pirates fan, here are my thoughts 1) Pirates are a freaking joke. Now I know how Bengals fans feel. Seriously, maybe I should ask the Pirates scouting staff to meet me at the batting cages. These guys did not even pitch in a real game at ANY level. Aren’t there tons of 20 year olds who can pitch that speed? 2) If they wanted to make a marketing splash with a gimmick, they would have been better off recruiting the dancing Tamil midget and he would have probably gotten the pitchers to give him a few walks Eddie Gaedal style. 3) This would be like the Bengals recruiting their next QB at the next half time challenge where some guy throws a ball through a freaking tire or their next kicker from the guy who has to kick a ball for a nice prize during half time. 4) I predict arm troubles for these guys in a year. 5) These guys are at least a lot cheaper to sign than the many first round busts the Pirates have had in the last decade.

  33. You missed what I thought was the money quote in the article: “Think of them as two Dominican kids,”

    hehe. Indians – the New Dominicans.

    i think we should send a represenattive. he’s vulnerable. this is very important b/c i’m losing faith in us getting obama, despite help form nader and Zawahiri. its very very unlikely blacks will kick him out as it appears we are about to witness instead a massive rightward shift in black-american politics. don’t say i didn’t warn you.

    my god man, lay off the sauce!

  34. 16 · Suki Dillon said

    I think desi youth that are into hip-hop culture are more likely to be into basketball from what I’ve seen.

    I know plenty of people who like Hip Hop/R&B music that don’t like basketball (or any sport for that matter), and the same goes the other way.

  35. hoops has definitely overtaken baseball in the last decade among the young, including desis (though things have leveled off post-jordan). i got into basketball later in life though i rarely played it as a kid. older indians are really into golf though, for the same reason they pushed tennis on us. unbeknownst to them, true elitists are into boxing.

  36. hoops has definitely overtaken baseball in the last decade among the young,

    Rush, think about it – basketball can be played with a hoop in someone’s driveway. you can’t do that with baseball. hoops has been more popular for decades.

    That Manju got no game!

  37. i think we have a shot at recruiting ken griffey jr to team brown. if you take suspected roiders out of the equation, he’s the greatest player since mantle and mays, actually probably surpassing mantle, which is a good comparison since mantle hobbled thru his 30′s too. only mays and ruth hit more homers, and i think you have to go back to the 60′s to find a player who consistently hit 40+ hrs/yr in his prime. all the roid heads posted such huge number recently thus making griffs numbers appear simply great as opposed to historic, thus denying griff his rightful place in history.

    I have lived in the Pacific Northwest my all life, so I know all about Griffey. If he had never left Seattle he might be close to Aaron and Bonds HR total, better he never been able avoid get hurt since he joined the Reds.

  38. my rents actively discouraged sports while i was growing up. music and academics were encouraged.

  39. That said, my father and all of his friends who migrated to the US in the late 60s and early 70s, definitely picked up an affinity for baseball.

    do you think it is also city-specific? my dad got into both football and basebal when my parents moved to pburgh, but once he moved to ny, baseball def. took a much bigger place. my brother, who has spent his entire life in ny, is a die-hard yankees fan and also attends mets games. and even though he’s heavily into football – fantasy football, watches games on tv every sunday etc – he’s never been to a single jets or giants game…

    my rents actively discouraged sports while i was growing up. music and academics were encouraged.

    my parents def. emphasised the arts and academics more, though they did put us into tennis. they were a bit wary of the groups sports, though – and i did have to make a solid case to get myself in tae kwon do classes. i;m not sure that overlooking sports was such a wise choice, though…

  40. While a small percentage of the attendance, I HAVE seen increasing numbers of Desis at Yankee Stadium over the last 15 years…

    This story showing up on our home page caused the “Get over here – you’ve gotta see this!” call to be sounded at our house. That’s kind of like the “Get in here – there’s In’juns on TV!” call.

  41. 41 · bessboop said

    Rush, think about it – basketball can be played with a hoop in someone’s driveway. you can’t do that with baseball.

    well, i used to play stickball, so that counts as baseball. as a side note, my dad always used to always say the only toy he had growing up was a stick, so when i would say i’m going out to play stickball, he would look rather discombobulated.

  42. do you think it is also city-specific? my dad got into both football and basebal when my parents moved to pburgh, but once he moved to ny, baseball def. took a much bigger place. my brother, who has spent his entire life in ny, is a die-hard yankees fan and also attends mets games. and even though he’s heavily into football – fantasy football, watches games on tv every sunday etc – he’s never been to a single jets or giants game…

    I really don’t know why. But in both Vancouver and Central Califronia is where I have noticed the trend of much more interest in basketball then baseball among desi’s of punjabi background. Whenever I go to California I noticed that when the Lakers are playing it is all alot of my young relatives talk about even some females who think Kobe and Allen Iverson are all that. Yet when I ask who there favorite baseball team is the answer is baseball is gay. Maybe it different for desi’s of other backgrounds.

  43. 16 · Suki Dillon said

    I think desi youth that are into hip-hop culture are more likely to be into basketball from what I’ve seen. I on the other hand am a Cubs fan growing up on Cubs game on the SuperStation WGN when I was younger.

    I, on the other other hand, like hip hop but I only watch polo and synchronized swimming. Baseball is good for one thing, though, which is baseball bats–hockey sticks are so passe. After a day at the pool watching synchronized swimming, me and my Punjabi goodas hop in our Acuras, pump the bass, grab our bats, and go looking for respectable citizens to terrorize. Thug life, y’all, know what I’m sayin? I didn’t make this world, this world made me.

    Props to Rinku and Dinesh.

  44. my rents actively discouraged sports while i was growing up. music and academics were encouraged.

    I knew some desi kids who were good at football (not NFL material by any means but could have been pretty decent high school players), but their parents simply would not let them play in high school. Too afraid they would get hurt. Other desi parents don’t approve of the time needed (3 hours of practice after school most days, and then of course games and travelling).

  45. well, i used to play stickball, so that counts as baseball. as a side note, my dad always used to always say the only toy he had growing up was a stick, so when i would say i’m going out to play stickball, he would look rather discombobulated.

    Discombobulated that you were going outside to play rather than watching arsenio hall, the cosby show and married with children. uh-huh.

    I, on the other other hand, like hip hop but I only watch polo and synchronized swimming.

    I so have a crush on your bad ass.