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A whole new ballgame

June 01, 2009 23:50 IST

Recently there's been plenty of hype over Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire.

But what about the other million dollar piece of news? Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, two javelin throwers from impoverished families, took part in The Million Dollar Arm, an Indian reality show that was searching for the fastest and most powerful arm.

Rinku and Dinesh were awarded first and second place, respectively. They won a trip to the US to train for baseball and eventually a Major League Baseball (MLB) tryout.

The duo arrived in California to be trained by University of Southern California pitching coach, Tom House. While India is inundated with cricket enthusiasts, baseball is an unknown game. But even though baseball is a foreign concept, Rinku and Dinesh were eager to become the first Indian MLB players.

On the first day of training, their coach remarked, "They couldn't throw well and didn't know how to catch." The learning curve was very steep for the MLB aspiring pair.

But even so after months of intensive training, the two young 'pitchers' were ready to impress the Major League.

They were demoralized when many teams were unimpressed at the original tryout and abstained from signing them on to their team. The disappointed rookies were considering returning to India to join the army. But serendipitously, Rinku and Dinesh were given a second tryout with four MLB teams that had not appeared at the first tryout. At the tryout, a Pittsburgh Pirate's catcher was fascinated with their skills: 'It's amazing. They're comparable to guys who have been playing 20 years in their life... and for them to do it in a matter of months, it's just unheard of.'

Despite the praise, another week passed with no good news. Rinku and Dinesh were ready to go back to India. Coach House surprised them by breaking the news that the Pittsburgh Pirates were ready to sign contracts with them!

In our Indian culture, it is common for us to pursue traditional employment as physicians, researchers, IT consultants, and businessmen in the US. Rinku and Dinesh are trailblazers. Their tenacity and humility are inspirational.

They have opened new doors for Indians in baseball and have, at the same time, encouraged the notion of exploring non-traditional careers that Indians have not thought of exploring.

It's a whole new ballgame!

Lakshman, 13, lives in Pennsylvania

Lakshman Somasundaram