Movie on Bucs' prospects from India planned
BRADENTON, Fla. — The two pitchers blend in perfectly with the rest of their late-teens, early 20s teammates.
They toil in the scorching Florida heat and steamy humidity at one of the lowest levels of pro baseball, the Gulf Coast League. Teams play games at noon, and admission is free for the dozen or so fans that trickle onto the grounds at Pirate City.
But these guys aren't just like the rest of their teammates. And it's not because they are the world's only two pro baseball players from India.
It's safe to say that nobody else in the GCL this summer hung out with President Obama in May. Just try to find two other GCL players who have a movie coming out about their lives next year.
Are you kidding?
"It was pretty cool," Rinku Singh said while finishing his lunch at the cafeteria at Pirate City. "We went out there and shook hands with Mr. President.
"We had a really good dinner at the White House. They had some sushi and some other stuff I didn't know. But it was really good."
The occasion was in recognition of Asian Heritage Month on May 23. Singh and his countryman Dinesh Patel, 21, were special guests of Obama.
Not bad for a couple of guys who were growing up poor in Lucknow, India, until a reality show changed their lives. Singh won the "Million Dollar Arm" contest in Mumbai, India, two years ago against some 37,000 other competitors. Patel finished second.
The Pirates signed them to contracts on Nov. 24, 2008, and the national media descended upon Pirate City for their first full seasons last year. The two gave interviews to all kinds of media, including a spot on ABC World News Tonight.
Neither had ever touched a baseball or seen a game prior to the reality show, but both have done well.
The 6-foot-4, 219-pound Singh is a hard-throwing lefty with a 1-0 record, a 1.80 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 10 innings.
Patel, a 5-foot-10 right-hander, has a 3.38 ERA and has struck out six batters in 5.1 innings.
"Both of them are great human beings," said Bradenton GCL manager and former major-league catcher Tom Prince. "They've done everything we've asked. They're learning the game. This year, you can start to see the talent come out a little bit more. They're used to us now. They're used to going about their business very professionally."
Baseball isn't the only thing the two have had to learn on the fly. Neither spoke a word of English before arriving in America last year.
Both have made great progress with the language in just over 18 months.
"We learn English here watching TV, like Baseball Tonight," Singh said.
But that's not the lone reason they watch ESPN and Baseball Tonight.
"We watch Baseball Tonight every day," Singh said. "That's one of the ways we learn. Now everything is easier. When an MLB game is on, we watch it. We learn from it. Then, we keep learning when we play every day."
Patel added: "We have one year of experience now. We've had a lot of practice. We know the situations."
The two live in separate dormitory rooms at Pirate City. Baseball takes up most of their time, but there are visits to the malls and movie theatres.
Both say they miss their family, friends and home-cooking the most when leaving India. The two spent last offseason back home and plan to do the same when this season is over.
"If I become a good enough player, then I will think about living here," Singh said.
Although just a month shy of his 22nd birthday, Singh was 6-2 last summer and wore a size 13 shoe. He's now 6-4 and needs a size 15.
"I'm still growing up," he said.
Also growing is the duo's legend - Sony Pictures bought the movie rights to their incredible story.
"I talked to the movie writer a couple of weeks ago," Singh said. "He told me he's almost finished writing the movie. The movie is coming next year. We'll see who is playing us."
Singh couldn't recall the name of the "movie writer," but he certainly remembered the name of his favorite actor.
"It's John Rambo," he said.
Singh meant Sylvester Stallone, of course, but give him that. Singh and Patel are both still getting used to life in the fast lane.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Singh said, "it's pretty cool."