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Monday November 24, 2008 10:02 pm

Million Dollar Arms Found in India?

Patel and Singh

Okay, not quite million dollar arms, but a California sports marketing group has found a $100,000 arm. And a $2,500 left-handed arm as well.
Confused? Seems like equal parts Hail Mary and brilliant strategy, but an Indian reality show joined the marketing group in trying to find major league arms in India, a country with no baseball infrastructure whatsoever. The idea was that one man in a country of a billion would own the natural ability to throw a baseball 85 miles per hour (roughly the speed of Greg Maddux’s fastball - last year).

Seems like a reasonable idea, doesn’t it? I mean, the overall talent level in baseball has taken a huge leap forward ever since the doors were opened and talent was cultivated throughout Latin America and South America and Japan. Baseball talent has found its way to the top in countries around the world and slowly crept towards America, and they’ve broken stereotypes along the way. We’ve had all sorts of hitters and pitchers from around the world. The World Baseball Classic is opening further doors around the world. And in a country of 1 billion, you’d think there be all sorts of baseball talent teeming just under the surface in India.

Read More | ESPN.com

So color me a little disappointed with the early returns. 30,000 people showed up - javelin throwers, cricket hurlers, shot putters - and all the TV show unearthed was a righty that can touch 90 in workouts without a radar gun present (less with one present), and a lefty that hit 84 once. Is that a decent return on all the effort? Not to denigrate them at all, it’s actually really cool that they are getting this chance to pursue their dreams, but from any other country with an established baseball history, this would barely be breaking news for prospect blogs.

The Pittsburgh Pirates actually went and signed these two teenagers, Dinesh Patel (the righty) and Riku Singh (the lefty). Amazingly, Neal Huntington, the admittedly outside-the-box-thinking GM of the Buccos, indulged the whole enterprise with actual minor league deals. Southern California pitching coach Tom House worked out with them and had this to say:

“Think of them as two Dominican kids,” House told the scouts. “They’re very raw. But I think this has a huge upside.”

But are they at all similar to two Dominican kids? In the whole article on the two young men, there’s no mention of ability to throw multiple pitches. They haven’t once pitched in a game. They’ve been working out for all of a couple months now. Do they have a single pitch beyond their high-eighties mediocre-sounding fastballs?

And what’s next for baseball as a sport in India? Does this mean founding baseball academies and leagues and attempt to force baseball on Indian athletes who have never seen a game in their lives? Is this going to spawn a concerted effort to grow baseball in India? Is that what separates a 85-mph throwing prospect found on a realty TV show from a Dominican fireballing 16-year old that has scouts drooling?

If not, it was a tawdry trick without much lasting meaning, even if two. But what else should we expect from reality television, really?

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Comments:

Just thought I’d post a comment that showed up in a Rob Neyer chat on ESPN.com, cause it’s kind of funny:

Mike (Rutland, VT): Hi Rob, Any thoughts on the two kids from India that the Pirates just signed? Thanks for your time. Happy Thanksgiving!!

SportsNation Rob Neyer: I think it’ll be the biggest miracle in sports history if we ever see one of them pitching in a real game on TV.

Hutch (Boston): Tony, A lot of talk about the Red Sox trading for Jarrod Saltiamacchia, any other MLB player ever marry his HS gym teacher?

SportsNation Rob Neyer: I don’t think so, but Babe Ruth married his physics professor.

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