Pirates Release Runner-Up From “The Million Dollar Arm”

Yeah, I know it’s the Pittsburgh Pirates and I’m ultimately talking about a guy that didn’t even make it higher than the Pirates’ Rookie-A team. However, I think this is far more newsworthy than usual.

On Wednesday, the Pirates announced that they released righthanded pitcher Dinesh Patel, who was the runner-up to the lefthanded Rinku Singh (also in the Pirates organization) on the Indian reality show, The Million Dollar Arm.

For those that didn’t know, The Million Dollar Arm was a contest in 2008 in India to find out who could throw the fastest fastball. The main premise for the contest was to promote baseball in India, a country where cricket – the predecessor to baseball – is the dominant sport. The person that could throw a baseball over 90 MPH was to be deemed the winner. Considering that the bowler (think of a pitcher in baseball) throws over the head without a bend in the elbow, adapting the throwing motion to a more traditional baseball throw wasn’t difficult. However, no one actually achieved the feat, so Singh and Patel (both threw in the mid-80s) were called the winner and runner-up out of over 37,000 contestants.

After receiving more instruction to improve their pitching motions, Singh and Patel pitched in front of scouts from many MLB teams. Eventually, Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington signed both to minor league contracts. Considering neither had a baseball background, expectations weren’t very high for either player. However, the 2 Indians held their own in the Rookie-A Gulf Coast League Pirates, as Patel had a 1.42 ERA, 5 hits allowed, no walks, and 4 strikeouts in 6.1 innings, while Singh had a 5.84 ERA, 14 hits allowed, 4 walks, and 8 strikeouts in 12.1 innings. In 2010, their fortunes reversed, though. Repeating the rookie league, Singh had a 2.61 ERA with 20 hits allowed, 8 walks, and 20 strikeouts in 20.2 innings pitched, earning a brief call-up to Single-A while Patel struggled to a 8.59 ERA, 14 hits allowed, 3 walks, and 7 strikeouts in 7.1 innings.

Even with some success in the minors for both pitchers, neither is highly regarded, and it would be a miracle if either was to make it into the majors. Their inclusion in the minor leagues is mainly to open up a new part of the world to baseball, and these pioneers are still interesting stories to follow. Rumor has it that Sony Entertainment has even bought the rights to produce a movie about these two men.

Another thing to take note of is the age of these two men. Despite his release, Patel is only 21 years old and I bet at least one organization is still moderately intrigued to give him a shot, while Singh is 22 years old. I wish I knew more about the circumstances as to why each pitcher was given such a light workload in their first two years as baseball players, as Patel was given only 13.2 innings in 2 years and Singh pitched 35 total innings. Perhaps it was just to protect their arms, since they are still just learning how to throw a baseball.

As I said before, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see either Singh or Patel in the major leagues, but they are still paving the road for future baseball players from India to make their way into the major leagues. It may take 10 or 20 years, but some day it will happen. I promise you, when it does, we will look back to 2008 when Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh were the first Indians to pitch within a Major League Baseball organization.

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