Share This Page

Million dollar visit to PNC Park for actor, Indian pitcher

| Sunday, May 11, 2014, 9:33 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Actor Jon Hamm sits on the set for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball before the Pirates' game against the Cardinals Sunday, May 11, 2014, outside PNC Park.

It was a different kind of pregame scene at PNC Park.

Players' moms occupied the home dugout, celebrating Mother's Day. ESPN folks were everywhere for the first Pirates-hosted Sunday Night Baseball telecast since 1996, when they played in Three Rivers Stadium.

Topping it off were the two well-dressed men doing interviews and posing for pictures. One of them, actor Jon Hamm, was instantly recognizable. The other, Rinku Singh, was not. But if not for Singh's extraordinary accomplishments, Hamm would have been back in Hollywood filming the last season of his best-known work, the hit cable series “Mad Men.”

Actually, Hamm was scheduled to leave early and do exactly that, sparing himself the awkwardness of cheering for his favorite team, as guest of the Pirates.

Hamm grew up near St. Louis, where Cardinals' fandom “becomes part of your DNA,” he said.

Hamm and Singh were plugging the Disney movie, “Million Dollar Arm,” which opens Friday. Unlike Hamm, Singh, who is portrayed by Suraj Sharma, is not in the film. But his story inspired it.

In 2007, Singh, a javelin thrower from rural India, won what amounted to an “American Idol”-style, televised baseball-throwing contest in his country. Hamm plays the sports agent, JB Bernstein, who came up with the idea.

Dinesh Patel, who had a similar background to Singh, also proved good enough to earn an invite to the U.S. to train.

After learning how to play the game — along with a new language and culture — from scratch, both signed with the Pirates. Patel eventually washed out of baseball. Singh, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound lefthander, is still part of the organization, recovering from Tommy John surgery after four solid seasons in the minor leagues.

“It's incredibly inspirational, even for me,” said Hamm, 43, who smiled and cracked jokes and lived up to his nice-guy reputation that apparently is the real deal.

“He's not just a great actor, he's a great human being,” Singh said.

“(The film) is incredibly inspiring, and I can only repay the compliments that Rinku's given me,” Hamm said. “It states to the measure of his character that he's gone through this experience and stayed humble, stayed grateful and stayed positive.”

Singh, 25, was affable enough. But standing on the PNC Park turf for the first time while the Pirates took batting practice, he was all-business, often playing down the hype surrounding the film.

“My focus is completely baseball,” he said.

The movie serves as a reminder to “just take a look at what I have been through,” said Singh. “I'm the same, exact guy I was back in the day. This is something that's keeping me straight and not do any stupid things, to be the same kid exactly that left the country.”

Outwardly, he hardly is the same kid. He has grown up and filled out. Mainly, Singh is a professional baseball player, grasping the same goal as any other professional baseball player.

“I'm happy that this story is going to inspire a bunch of kids around the world,” he said. “Other than that, I could care less. I'm far away from my family, my friends, my country. Just because of one reason — baseball. I want to keep that alive.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bcohn@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.