By now most of you know how crazy I am about baseball and my favorite team in the whole world, The New York Yankees. Like millions of immigrants before me, baseball has been that gentle hand that has slowly pushed me along the path of Americanization, making me comfortable in my new life in my chosen home.
New York based journalist and writer, Pete Hamill when describing the 2000 Subway (World) Series wrote, “Today, the children of the Caribbean migration, of Asia and Russia and Mexico are meshing with the children of that old immigration wave, and one of the things that brings them together is baseball.”
Slowly but surely the heroes of my childhood – Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Karsan Ghavri – cricket stars of the 1980s were replaced by Paul O’Neil, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettite and my all time favorite, Bernie Williams.
In the early days when money was tight, I would still find some time and money to splurge for a seat on the bleachers, especially during the hot day games. Those lessons of the game taught me baseball. To me it seemed like another variation of cricket, the game that dominated my childhood. The game was also of misfits and unfits, thus making it easier to identify with say a David Wells or Scott Brosius.
Whenever I watched Mariano clinically close out the game or Jeter do his leap-and-throw routine, I wondered, when and if ever, there will be baseball player from India who would play in the major leagues. I knew that kids who grow up playing cricket could easily adapt to baseball – okay I am exaggerating a bit, but the building blocks were all there.
Ironically, Cricket became more like baseball – adapting to a shorter, livelier Twenty20 format that limited the game to around 120 pitches (give or take) per team.
Apparently others dreamed of finding baseball talent in India, one of them being Ash Vasudevan, who is a successful technology entrepreneur who has become a friend over past few years. Last year he informed me about The Million Dollar Arm, a TV reality show that was essentially looking for the first Indian pitcher. To make a long story short, they found two – Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel. The baseball rookies came to America, and recently signed a minor league contract with Pittsburg Pirates.
What a great story that was captured by ESPN’s Outside The Lines show this weekend. I hope you enjoy the clip. I am a Yankee Fan, but for now I cheer the Pittsburg Pirates. (Check out Rinku and Dinesh’s blog.)