November 24, 2008
America, please meet Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel. They're both 20 years old, they're both pitchers and they're both from India. Both are your newest trailblazers in the world of American baseball.
Before this spring, neither had ever picked up a baseball, preferring cricket and javelin. On Monday, though, Singh and Patel became the first Indians to sign baseball contracts in the United States, inking minor league deals with Pittsburgh and inevitably setting the stage for a baseball comedy starring Rob Schneider and that dude from Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.
Time will tell if the arms of Singh (left) and Patel prove them to be more than just an easy "Hey, America is outsourcing everything to India!" joke, but the Pirates believe their potential is worth a risk. (And if this news isn't the ultimate proof that 16 straight losing seasons will send you searching anywhere, I'm not sure what is.)
"This is very intriguing for us," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "We are trying to broaden our horizons internationally and to get into some non-traditional markets. I've always been curious about India, knowing they have a cultural passion for cricket, which involves throwing, hitting and running. We want to see how that translates to baseball.
"This organization benefited in Latin America when we signed Roberto Clemente, and hopefully with their success, we'll see more athletes coming from India."
If you're wondering how the pair went from subcontinent unknowns to U.S. newsmakers in just over six months, the story is actually worth more than a script treatment. Earlier this year, an American talent company held a pitching contest in India because it believed the country's 1.1 billion was a vast and untapped talent resource. Singh and Patel topped the 30,000 Indians who tried out and have been working with USC pitching coach Tom House ever since.
To learn more about Rinku and Dinesh, visit their unintentionally hilarious blog — "We went with JB sir to breakfast at a great American breakfast eatery called Dennys" — or check in with the guys at Walkoff Walk, who have been on the story since Day One.