On Monday, Nov. 24, 2008, the Pittsburgh Pirates made their best baseball decision since plucking Roberto Clemente from the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Rule Five Draft in 1954.
And it might turn out to be even better than that.
In an unprecedented act of progressivism, the Buccos became the first MLB team ever to sign an Indian-born player. In fact, it is the first time in history an Indian-born player has signed a professional sports contract outside their home country, let alone in the U.S.
And it gets better. There are two of them.
Dinesh Patel (a 20-year-old righty) and Rinku Singh (a 19-year-old lefty) were rewarded for their prospect-like performances in India's first "Million Dollar Arm" challenge and their ensuing training with invitations to this year's Minor League Spring Training.
Though neither projects to be a future Hall of Famer, the two reportedly have some respectable stuff: "the 6'2" Singh throws 89-90 mph and has a split-finger changeup pitch, [while] the 5'11" Patel throws a circle change and can reach 91-92 mph with his heater." (from MLB.com).
But this signing means so much more than just the individual talents of Patel or Singh.
While it's not the first international (non-Americas) signing for the new management team of Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly, it's certain to be the most valuable.
Though the Buccos signed South African switch-hitting shortstop prospect Mpho Ngoepe earlier this year, it pales in comparison to what Huntington just pulled off.
Baseball fans everywhere—especially Pirates fans—have about 1,129,866,154 reasons to like this acquisition—one for every potential new fan. While it may take a while for baseball to catch on in India, if it ever does, the Pittsburgh Pirates are sure to be to the Indians as the New York Yankees are to the Japanese.
Not to mention it opens the floodgates for a virtually unlimited stream of potential talent, with the Pirates sure to be atop the list.
It will be some time before Patel and Singh make their major league debuts; but, if and when they do, it is absolutely critical that Pirates are fielding a competitive team if they have any hope of establishing a firm foothold in their new-found potential fan base.
But if they do ever successfully capture the hearts of the Indian people, the dividends will be plentiful in terms of both players and revenue.
It might even eventually lead to the Pirates becoming —GASP— a large market team!
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