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Strong arms offer new life to young Indians in baseball

other Updated: Jun 29, 2011 00:26 IST
Reuters
Walt Disney

Young men all over India are flexing their muscles in the hope that a strong arm will carry them into a money-spinning career in professional baseball in the United States.

Despite the lack of a baseball tradition in India, the dream is not an impossible one, as Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel proved in a tale that is being immortalised in a Walt Disney film.

Singh beat 35,000 rivals three years ago in a talent-hunt in India dubbed "The Million-Dollar Arm" (TMDA) and is tipped to break into Major League Baseball (MLB) after a spell with the minor-league Pittsburg Pirates.

Patel, second in the throwing contest, also earned a contract with the Pirates and, after a lucrative stint in the U.S. which included a meeting with President Barack Obama, is back home looking for a coaching job. Now, India is looking for someone to follow in their footsteps, after the second TMDA contest began in Bangalore last week and due to travel 60 cities, towns and villages in search of potential talent.

Obama visit
"I don't know how to put it in words; I'm still living the dream," the soft-spoken Patel told Reuters by telephone. "I had not even seen a baseball before turning up for that talent show. Suddenly I found myself training in Los Angeles," the 23-year-old added, briefly hesitating before abandoning broken English for fluent Hindi.

"One day, we went to Washington to meet President Barack Obama. You don't get such opportunities. I did not say much, just met him, shook his hand and told him we are baseball players from India. He said something in English...we gave him a jersey with his name on the back."

Patel said he was proud to have been a pioneer.

"Already our story has spread far and wide and all the boys in my village are excited about TMDA's second season. In fact, most youngsters who have read about us want to have a go at it. After all, baseball offers incredible money.

"I expect Rinku soon to make it to the major league and that would draw more youngsters to baseball. We started the game so late, practised for about six months and were picked (by the Pirates).

"If an under-16 boy is picked and trained, I'm sure he would make it to the major league by the time he is 20 or 21."