After finishing first and second in the Indian reality show The Million Dollar Arm, the pair was signed to minor league contracts by the Pittsburgh Pirates just before the start of the 2009 season. Despite the fact that neither athlete had played the game before competing on the show, Singh and Patel were the first Indian citizens to ever sign with a major American sports club. Their interesting and unlikely story garnered them a considerable amount of media attention last year. (Of these stories, the best is probably Bobby Ghosh’s March 2009 feature for Sports Illustrated.)
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review checked in on the pitchers last month:
The progress between last spring and now is remarkable, Pirates farm director Kyle Stark said, considering they knew next to nothing when they arrived.
They had a difficult time getting the concept of catching the ball with the glove, not their bare hands, and the first time a ball was hit back to one of them during live batting practice, he jumped and screamed in surprise.
So how does it work having two strangers to the game playing professionally alongside guys who started playing tee ball at age 5?
“I think the beauty about this game is that there are certain things that are so fundamental that we practice, practice, practice no matter how much experience a player has,” Stark said. “So they’re getting a taste of the same things (as everyone else). In terms of being on the mound and competing, you just back up the expectation of where they start. Everything we do is progression-oriented anyway. It’s just starting further back in the progression with those guys.”
Singh got his first win on July 13; Patel earned his one month later.
Patel, a right-hander, finished with a 1-0 record and a 1.42 ERA in six games, 6 1/3 innings pitched. He allowed five hits and two runs, one earned, with no walks and four strikeouts.
Singh, a lefty, was 1-3 with a 5.84 ERA in 12 1/3 innings. He gave up 14 hits, nine runs, eight earned, with four walks and eight strikeouts.
Singh and Patel used to frequently update their joint blog, but it seems like they’ve abandoned it this season. That’s a shame, because it was really delightful at points.