Baseball's 'Slumdog Millionaire' Story

Nine months ago, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel from the impoverished villages of Holepur and Varanasi in central India, had never heard of baseball. Names like the Yankees, Red Sox, Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson didn't mean a thing to them.

Things have changed for 19-year-old Singh and 20-year-old Patel, who are now in spring training at the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor league camp in Bradenton, Fla., and in the running to become the sport's next big household names.

Baseball's most unlikely rookies got their start in a highly unusual way -- by entering an Indian reality show called "The Million Dollar Arm."

"We basically created 'Indian Idol,' but we took out the singing and put in pitching," said J.B. Bernstein, who created the show.

Bernstein, a California-based sports agent, came up with the idea for the show as a way to tap into the resources of the world's second most populous country, assuming that he could unlock a pool of hidden talent with the right incentives.

More than 30,000 young men showed up to compete for a chance at the prize money -- as much as $1 million -- and a trip to America to try out for a group of major league scouts. Singh and Patel, whose closest experience to pitching a baseball was throwing a javelin, were the standouts.

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"Probability dictates that with that many men between the ages of 16 and 21, we were going to find guys who were great natural athletes, who could throw the ball fast," said Bernstein. "The issue was whether any of them could learn to pitch, play baseball."

Singh finished first by throwing an 89-mile-per-hour fastball, and won a $100,000 prize. He instantly became the richest man in his village, where his family of 10 had been sharing a one-room home. Patel was named runner-up after throwing 87 mph.

To determine whether their throwing power could translate into baseball prowess, Singh and Patel left India last May, moved in with Bernstein in Los Angeles, and began training at the University of Southern California.

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"They had never played the game, they couldn't catch, they couldn't throw, they didn't know any of the intricacies of anything that had to do with baseball," said former big league pitching coach Tom House, who agreed to train the raw recruits.

When he first saw them play, House said, "They stunk. They couldn't have played tee ball with little leaguers."

Singh and Patel trained tirelessly, working with House seven days a week for five months in preparation for their debut in front of the scouts. If they failed, they would return to India to join the army.

Incredibly, their hard work paid off. In November, after trying out for scouts from a range of major league teams, both men were signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, making history as the first Indian-born players to sign professional baseball contracts in the United States.

"To have these boys do what they did is nothing short of a miracle. But it was an earned miracle," House said.

"Our greatest dream is coming to us," the two men wrote on their blog after getting the news. "We are so happy and excited it is unreal."

And so, they arrived in Florida this month, ready to train.

"Some people, they think this is a joke, but we are serious," Singh told ABC News.

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