The Pittsburgh Pirates were widely ridiculed in late 2008 when they signed a pair of game-show winners from India to minor-league contracts.
Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel never played baseball before attracting notice for their pitching ability while participating in the Indian reality show “Million Dollar Arm.” Singh and Patel won the contest arranged by agent J.B. Bernstein, and the notoriety led to a pro tryout in California.
The Pirates, looking for talent in any form imaginable, made Singh and Patel the first players of Indian origin to sign pro sports deals in America. It was a risk for the organization and new general manager Neal Huntington, which became evident when the right-handed throwing Patel was released in 2010 after two lackluster seasons in the low minor leagues.
However, the lefty Singh advanced to Low-A West Virginia by 2012, his fourth pro season. The 25-year-old Singh missed the entire 2013 season with shoulder problems, but he is on track to return to action this spring.
At any rate, the unlikely story of Singh and Patel caught the eye of Disney, which is rolling out the Million Dollar Arm movie in May. Starring Jon Hamm as Bernstein, the film looks to have the feel-good tone recognizable from other Disney sports movies:
No matter what becomes of Singh, it’s still a notable story – and a feather in the Pirates’ cap for thinking outside the normal scouting parameters.