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Latest Pirates: Rinku, Dinesh sign up with Pittsburg

On an evening outing with his family, the coach at Lucknow Sports College Deepak Sharma is waiting for a long-distance call.

Written by Sandeepdwivedi | Mumbai |
November 26, 2008 12:26:04 am

On an evening outing with his family, the coach at Lucknow Sports College Deepak Sharma is waiting for a long-distance call. The news has reached him that two of his former wards — Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel — have created sporting history by becoming the first professional baseball players from India after being signed by the Pittsburg Pirates.

The two will now be part of the team’s minor league spring training next year.

Sharma is overwhelmed by the sudden change of fortunes for the two former javelin throwers from remote UP, who were spotted during a country-wide talent hunt for pitchers titled ‘million dollar arm’ about eight months back. “It’s destiny,” says a philosophical Sharma as he speaks about the boys from modest families. While Dinesh’s family in Varanasi is into farming, Bhadoi boy Rinku’s father is a truck driver.

Big dreams

Sharma has been in touch with his boys since they left Indian shores with big dreams and a hefty bank account courtesy the million-dollar contest spoils. He recalls the conversation he had with Rinku and Patel on August 15. “They knew that we all would be together for the flag hoisting ceremony. The call came as a surprise and the phone changed several hands. They wanted to speak to everybody. It was an emotional moment and I felt great,” says the coach, who would have never thought that one day the javelin hurlers would end up as baseball pitchers.

According the coach, the boys were enjoying their stay in US. “Since they are so used to our sports college schedule of getting up early and spending long hours on the field, they have adapted to the training well,” says Sharma. The only thing that the duo miss, the coach says, is Indian food and the company of the sports college boys. “But to achieve something, you have to make some sacrifices,” he says.

The duo, according to the club’s website, are learning English by watching ESPN’s Baseball Tonight on television, apart from taking online courses to continue their studies.

Switching roles

Even before Rinku was spotted by baseball scouts, he always dreamt of sporting success. The 20-year-old started off as a cricketer, but switched to athletics when things didn’t go his way. He had spoken about how when his former team mates, now star cricketers, Suresh Raina and RP Singh used to visit the sports college, they were followed by cameras all the time. “Several times, I have tried standing next to the two so that I could be in the photographs that were published in the papers. Not once did I manage that,” he had said.

Today things have changed. On the US baseball circuit, Rinku and Patel are a rags to riches story many are talking about.

The Pirates vice-president and general manager Neal Huntington, while showcasing their new signings, spoke about his club’s foray into baseball’s untapped market and potential of the rookies. “We are intrigued by Patel’s arm strength and Singh’s frame and potential. These young men have improved a tremendous amount in their six month exposure to baseball and we look forward to helping them continue to fulfil their potential,” Huntington said.

In case they do, the long distance calls to the Sports College in Lucknow will get more frequent.

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