â†µNo, not Cleveland Indians. And not Native Americans, either. I’m talking about actual Indians. You know. From India. â†µ
â†µYou can file this story under “Ways in Which Reality Television Continues to Take Over the Entire World.” Or you can file it under “Holy Crap There Are a Lot of Indians and If They Get Really into Baseball We’re in a Heap of Trouble.” â†µâ†µ
â†µBut wherever you file it, the bare bones of the story are undeniable. Two Indian men, 20-year-old Rinku Singh and 19-year-old Dinesh Patel, have been signed as non-draft free agents by the Pittsburgh Pirates after winning a pro training session in the States on an Indian television reality competition called Million Dollar Arm. â†µ
â†µNeither of these guys had ever even held a baseball before the show started shooting in April. This admittedly does not bode well for their future in the bigs. Nor does the fact that they won the show not by demonstrating any actual aptitude for pitching but merely by topping the Jamie Moyer line on the radar gun -- 85 mph. â†µâ†µ
â†µHowever, before you decide to file this under “The Charles Finley Honorary Dossier of Ridiculous Publicity Stunts”, consider this: Jeff Borris is now representing both of these dudes. And if that doesn’t scare you, then think about this: For every person in the U.S., there are about a thousand Indians, give or take a few hundred here and there. Actually, I don’t know the real number, but suffice it to say that The Economist has led me to believe that there are a lot of Indians in the world. And what’s more, they’re starting to have purchasing power. The big three in Detroit are basically wagering their entire post-bailout future on the fact that the ratio of people-to-cars in India will increase dramatically in the next 20 years from where it’s at now, which is about 700-1. â†µâ†µ
â†µIn short, the untapped Indian market for just about anything is gigundous. And the Indians have already demonstrated a rabid passion for bat-and-ball games, namely cricket, a sport they take more seriously than a heart attack over there. If you think Yankees/Red Sox is heavy, then you, uh, might want to keep your eye on the wavering World War III alert monitor when India’s national cricket team travels to Pakistan in January for a series of international not-very-friendlies. Nuclear weapons never seem so precarious as when those two nations compete in any way. â†µâ†µ
â†µWhat I’m trying to say is this: Even if Rinku and Dinesh are a complete farce as baseball players, there is potentially an enormous financial upside to being the first MLB team to put an Indian on the field and igniting a furor in that nation for baseball. That it could prove to be the Pirates who are that MLB team makes perfect sense, because let’s face it -- what do they have to lose? â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.