Talk about change.When Dave Littlefield and Kevin McClatchy ran the Pirates, I’m not sure there were scouts assigned to cover Indiana.Ã‚Â With Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington running the show now, there’s word today that the Pirates have signed two pitchers from India to minor league contracts. Twenty year-old right hander Dinesh Patel and and 19 year old-lefthander Rinku Singh will both participate in the team’s minor league spring training next year.
As amazing as that occurrence is in and of itself, it actually gets better from there. It seems that the two pitchers came to the Pirates attention by winning an Indian reality show designed by Barry Bonds’ PR manager. Seriously. The show was called “Million Dollar Arm” and its premise was quite simple: find one person in the country of more than a billion people who could consistently throw strikes at more than 85 mph. No small feat if you saw the Pirates pitching staff at all last year.
While no one claimed the contest’s million dollar prize,Ã‚Â Singh was the top finisher, pocketing $100,000. Patel netted $2,500, and both received a trip to the United States to work out with noted California pitching coach Tom House. Following there extensive training, the pitchers were showcased for teams in a session on November 6 where the Pirates were impressed enough to take a chance on the pair.
Other wonderful tidbits from the story:
– Both are believed to be the first Indians to sign professional baseball contracts outside their home country.
-Prior to this contest, neither pitcher had left his small village.
-Each of them is one of nine children, and their primary athletic experience comes from throwing the javelin.
-Neither pitcher has ever taken the mound in a game situation.
-When they first began playing catch, “the pitchers were mystified by the concept of gloves and had to be taught not to try to catch the ball with their bare hands.”
-The two have picked some English from watching Baseball Tonight.
-The signings represent the Pirates second venture into a non-traditional baseball market. Earlier in the off-season, they inked South African shortstop Mpho Ngoepe to a contract.