Two young men from Uttar Pradesh in northern India, is the inspiration behind Disney's recent movie Million Dollar Arm. Singh and Patel participated in a contest organized by J.B. Bernstein intended to find young men who could pitch a baseball more than 90 miles per hour. The contest was presented as a reality show with the aim of finding “the Yao Ming of baseball.” In other words, Bernstein was looking for a talented, young, Asian athlete who could entertain crowds in the United States. Although none of the contestants in the reality show, also called Million Dollar Arm, pitched a baseball more than 90 miles per hour, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel performed better than any other contestants, and they were rewarded with $100,000 and contracts to play in baseball's minor leagues for the Pittsburgh Pirates farm teams.
In appearance, Singh and Patel are completely different. Rinku Singh is well above average in height, standing at 6 feet and 5 inches and weighing 220 pounds, while Dinesh Patel is much smaller, standing below 6 feet. What's similar about them both is their constantly positive attitudes. Before Singh and Patel entered the Million Dollar Arm contest, they had never even heard of American baseball, and both men were professional javelin throwers and amateur cricket players. Their cricket coach was the one who told them to try out for the contest, explaining to them that they could get money just for doing what they loved to do. In fact, the inspiration for Bernstein's contest was a cricket game he saw on television while searching for a way to find talented, young athletes.
J.B. Bernstein was once the agent of great athletes such as football player Barry Sanders and baseball player Barry Bonds, but in recent years he had fallen on hard times. In desperation to find an idea that could revive his career, Bernstein created the Million Dollar Arm contest, which certainly revived his career as well as beginning the careers of Singh and Patel and inspiring the successful Disney movie of the same name. For the original contest, 37,000 participants arrived at the location to try to throw a 90-mile-per-hour fast ball, but none of the young Indian men, most of whom had never heard of baseball, could do it. The first place winner was Rinku Singh, who pitched an 88-mile-per-hour fast ball and won the highest prize of $100,000. Singh and Dinesh Patel, the second place winner, were awarded trips to the United States to try out for Major League Baseball teams.
The Disney movie based on their story stars Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal as Singh and Patel as well as Jon Hamm as Bernstein. It's directed by Craig Gillespie, the filmmaker who directed Lars and the Real Girl. Jon Hamm said of Singh and Patel, “The boys are amazing.” He praised their athletic talent, saying that he himself could never hope to qualify for a professional baseball team and that the young Indian men had not even heard of baseball growing up. Jon Hamm also stars as advertising executive Don Draper in the hit AMC series Mad Men.
Since the unlikely pair of Indian baseball stars came to the United States, Singh and Patel have taken separate roads. Rinku Singh continues to play for the Gulf Coast Pirates minor league team, and Dinesh Patel has returned to his native Uttar Pradesh to coach young baseball players who dream of one day playing professionally. In interviews, the two athletes behave quite differently. Singh appears very comfortable and relaxed in front of the camera, while Patel is the more reserved of the two. While Singh speaks fluent English and attends interviews with his American girlfriend, Patel feels more comfortable speaking his native language and prefers being in Uttar Pradesh. The actor who played Patel in Million Dollar Arm, Madhur Mittal, said that Patel missed being in his home country as soon as he arrived in the United States to visit the film set.
The lessons learned from their story show that anyone can succeed with enough determination, even if the chance of success doesn't seem likely. As Singh and Patel explained, they didn't even have dreams growing up in Uttar Pradesh, and yet they have accomplished more than most Americans dream of, despite poverty in their home region. The key to their success is certainly their positive attitudes and humble demeanor, and perhaps this difference is what sets them apart from most people who grew up with all the advantages of living in the United States. Although Singh and Patel are quite humble and respectful, they haven't forgotten to keep a sense of humor. Before filming Million Dollar Arm, they were asked in an interview who they wished to play them in the film, and they both replied “Rambo” without hesitation. With determination, humility, a sense of humor and belief in yourself, the seemingly impossible can be accomplished.