Million Dollar Arm: Sometimes to Win, You Have to Change the Game

Million Dollar Arm: Sometimes to Win, You Have to Change the Game

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by J. B. Bernstein
     
 

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A TRUE STORY OF FINDING THE AMERICAN DREAM . . . ABROAD

India is a country with more than one billion people, a fanatical national cricket obsession, and exactly zero talent scouts. There, superstar sports agent J. B. Bernstein knew that he could find the Yao Ming of baseball— someone with a strong arm and enough raw talent to pitch in the major

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Overview

A TRUE STORY OF FINDING THE AMERICAN DREAM . . . ABROAD

India is a country with more than one billion people, a fanatical national cricket obsession, and exactly zero talent scouts. There, superstar sports agent J. B. Bernstein knew that he could find the Yao Ming of baseball— someone with a strong arm and enough raw talent to pitch in the major leagues. Almost no one in India is familiar with the game, but Bernstein had heard enough coaches swear that if you gave them a guy who throws a hundred miles an hour, they could teach him how to pitch. So in 2007, Bernstein flew to Mumbai with a radar gun and a plan to find his diamond in the rough. His idea was The Million Dollar Arm, a reality television competition with a huge cash prize and a chance to become the first native of India to sign a contract with an American major-league team.

The result is a humorous and inspiring story about three guys transformed: Bernstein, the consummate bachelor and shrewd businessman, and Dinesh and Rinku, the two young men from small farming villages whom he brought home to California. Million Dollar Arm is a timeless reflection on baseball and the American dream, as well as a tale of victory over incredible odds. But, above all, it’s about the limitless possibilities inside every one of us.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
05/15/2014
Bernstein was a successful sports agent who grew weary of the cynicism that comes with the intimate dealings in professional sports. Influenced by the success—both on the court and through lucrative advertising contracts back home in China—of Yao Ming in the NBA, the author believed that this situation could be replicated when searching for pitching talent by exploring a country with a similar population. He chose India owing to its love of cricket and its number of young men. Surely, Bernstein reasoned, among all of these men there must be scores who had the raw ability to throw a baseball 90 mph? Here, Bernstein details how he went about conducting a talent search in the country. This is a classic fish-out-of-water story both concerning Bernstein's experience and that of the two young Indian boys he brings to the United States to train. The two young men had never heard of the game, so every weird idiosyncrasy of the minutia-obsessed sport had to be learned. This book will make longtime baseball enthusiasts reflect upon how truly strange the sport is. Further, watching the discovery of the game by these baseball neophytes will reinvigorate the reader's own fervor for our national pastime. VERDICT Recommended for any baseball fans who have ever wished to relive what it was like to fall in love with their favorite sport all over again. Also, from an anthropological standpoint, it highlights nicely how people from entirely different cultures can benefit from interaction.—Brian Renvall, Mesalands Community Coll., Tucumcari, NM

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781628991543
Publisher:
Center Point
Publication date:
07/28/2014
Edition description:
Large Print
Pages:
254
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.76(h) x 0.73(d)

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PROLOGUE

Their crisp white Million Dollar Arm uniforms gleaming in the bright Arizona sun, Rinku and Dinesh took the field. They had spent the last hour warming up inside the training facility, throwing 90-mile-per-hour fastballs that hit the catcher’s mitt with lots of mustard and a satisfying pop. They were locked in and ready to go. About to face a crowd of pro scouts, the two were far from finished projects, but to look at them, you’d never guess that just a year before, they had never touched a baseball. Hell, a year ago, they didn’t even know what a baseball was.

These two guys, who hailed from the kind of small, rural Indian villages where many people didn’t have indoor plumbing, running electricity, or opportunities for work, found themselves in Tempe that early-November morning to compete for a spot in the bigs. The experiment began a year earlier with a zany idea to canvass India, where baseball is virtually unknown, in search of raw pitching talent. Rinku and Dinesh were the winners of the nationwide contest and reality TV show. Now they were trying to make history as the first natives of India to become pro athletes in the United States.

The training facility where we were holding the tryout, housed in an ordinary office park adjacent to a strip mall, didn’t exactly look like the stuff of Cooperstown. But it was one of the top facilities in Arizona. Several office suites had been combined to create a beautiful, modern space with cold tubs for ice baths, workout equipment, an indoor pitching mound, and the like. Out the back door and across a parking lot was a strip of Astroturf with a pitching mound and pitching cage specifically designed for pitchers and hitters to train.

Behind home plate stood thirty stony-faced scouts. It was unbelievable, even surreal, how many scouts had turned out to see if Rinku and Dinesh could throw. These travel-hardened vets of the sport, who will look under any and every rock for the next megastar, couldn’t stay away from our tryout, no matter how ridiculous a long shot it was.

The scouts weren’t the only ones eager to discover whether baseball can be learned well enough in a year to play in the pros. A huge crowd of media—including ESPN, USA Today, and local reporters and TV crews—had assembled, which was very atypical. No one ever covers baseball tryouts. Even a crazy, once-in-a-generation high school recruit is a tough sell to an editor. But two guys who, if they didn’t do the impossible and land a spot on a baseball team, would be sent back to a life of hardship, at least by American standards? Well, that was newsworthy. Rinku’s and Dinesh’s tryout had all the melodrama and nail-biting potential heartbreak that make for an irresistible sports story.

When the time came to bring out Rinku and Dinesh, their pitching had been great, which wasn’t always the case. While both had big-league potential, their lightning-quick education meant that their deliveries could be erratic. Some days were good, some days not so much. We wanted them to warm up inside so that they would come out looking sharp. And, thank God, today their mechanics were laser-focused.

When Rinku; Dinesh; their pitching coach, Tom House; talent scout and trainer Ray Poitevint; my business partners Ash Vasudevan and Will Chang; and I walked out of the building in one badass line, it was like a scene from Reservoir Dogs. (Well, maybe more like the scene from Swingers where they imitate Reservoir Dogs.) As Coach House started to introduce the boys, smiling and thanking everyone for coming out to see this miracle of baseball, our mini-entourage was buzzing with nerves. I was so pumped; I couldn’t wait for them to get out on the mound. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Rinku and Dinesh were going to nail this thing.

Dinesh was up first. The scouts, three deep, jostled one another and shoved their radar guns into place. (Scouts all bring their own guns, since they don’t trust anyone.) Dozens of barrels pointed at Dinesh as he trotted out to the mound.

I’d never been more excited about anything in mylife—and as a pro sports agent who had been in the businessfor more than twenty years, it took a lot to get meexcited. I had seen and done just about everything: drivenexpensive cars, flown on private jets, partied at the hottestnightclubs, dated the prettiest girls, and watched the

Super Bowl from the sidelines. But this was different. If Rinku and Dinesh showed the scouts the best they could do, it would change the courses of their lives and their families’ lives forever. It would also vindicate me after most of the sports community told me I was an idiot when I first came up with the idea.

I felt great. Success was assured. There wasn’t a hint that anything could go wrong—until someone pulled back the tarp that had been covering the mound. Suddenly, like a train wreck unfurling in slow motion, the entire situation went south. The mound, sandy, crumbling, and uneven, was totally messed up.

“Coach, mound no good,” Dinesh said.

The scouts, their guns raised in the air, waited. There was no time.

“You gotta go,” Coach House whispered loudly. “Just go!”

And just like when the guys left their villages back in India for a foreign land and a crazy dream, Dinesh took a major-league leap of faith, stepped up to the mound, and wound up for his first pitch.

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