MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
And I'm Michele Norris. I've got an analogy for you. Cricket is to India as baseball is to the U.S. And like baseball, cricket involves throwing a ball very fast to a batter; in this case a batsman who wants to hit the ball very far. So it would make sense that Major League Baseball would have dozens of players from India, right? Well, not exactly. It took an enterprising promoter and a contest called the Million Dollar Arm to produce Dinesh Kumar Patel and Rinku Singh. They are the first Indians to sign professional baseball contracts, even though before a few months ago they'd never picked up a baseball. The newest members of the Pittsburgh Pirates are in Los Angeles getting some much needed practice right now. And Jeff Bernstein is the promoter behind all this, and he's with them, and he joins me on the line. And I understand that you're actually in the car with them right now. Is that correct?
JEFF BERNSTEIN: Correct. We are on our way to that much needed practice you mentioned.
NORRIS: And as for that much needed practice, how much do they actually know about baseball? These two games are very different.
BERNSTEIN: No doubt about it. I mean, obviously, before they came to the United States, they knew nothing about baseball. They've never even really heard of baseball as a sport. What's been amazing has been how quickly they have been able to not only adapt, but to learn how to play the game and to learn the rules, to learn how to pitch. But there's no doubt, like any 19-year old, they definitely need a little bit more time in the oven, so to speak.
NORRIS: Time in the oven, OK. So how did you find these two players?
BERNSTEIN: We created a contest in India which was basically like taking "American Idol" and taking out the singers and putting in pitchers, and taking out the American and putting in India. We partnered with a great TV network in India to create a reality TV show. We saw almost 40,000 young men who have tried to throw the ball. And Rinku and Dinesh were the cream of the crop.
NORRIS: How - do they know anything about the Pirates? Do they know anything about Pittsburgh?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
BERNSTEIN: Well, it's funny you should say that. As soon as they heard that they were signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, they immediately absconded up to their rooms to jump on the ever faithful Internet, and they were able to find Pittsburgh on a map. So they went to the Pirates Web site, and they were able to view a lot of the highlight videos from this season. So by the time they report to training camp, they will be Pittsburgh Pirate experts.
NORRIS: Now, the two players are working on their baseball skills and also their English skills. They're learning a new language. Is that where you are headed now, for baseball, or are you headed to the classroom?
BERNSTEIN: Baseball now. But you're right. We both have had adventures learning each other's language. I've had to, you know, delve into Hindi and - I definitely have to credit "Baseball Tonight." They watch "Baseball Tonight" every night so, you know, they are able to pick up words. They'll say, you know, sir, what does this mean or, sir, what does this mean? So, outside of a formal classroom setting, these kids have become fairly fluent in English. So, you know, even on that level they're learning at a breakneck pace.
NORRIS: How do you say strike out in Hindi?
BERNSTEIN: Boys, how do you say strike out in Hindi? They said it's strike out. They say it's the same.
NORRIS: Well, strike out. Well, there you go.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
NORRIS: Jeff, it's been good to talk to you. Thanks so much.
BERNSTEIN: Oh, thank you, Michele.
NORRIS: Jeff Bernstein is a marketing agent and the man behind the signing of the first two Major League Baseball players from India. And once again, those players are named Dinesh Kumar Patel and Rinku Singh.
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