Guest contribution by loyal reader and current Q2 intern, Michael Goldman.
Real pirate ships aren’t the only pirates in the news for their global endeavors anymore. Recently, the Pittsburgh Pirates have made additions to their club from around the globe, including Monday’s signing of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel from India, and the South African Mpho “Gift” Ngoepe a few months ago.
The 20-year-old “pitchers” Singh and Patel are a gamble for the Pirates, as neither had picked up a baseball before entering India’s reality TV contest “Million Dollar Arm” in March. In fact, neither won the contest, but both came to America following the show. After working out for several months with Coach Tom House, the two held a tryout in Arizona attended by 30 major league scouts. The two hurlers are believed to be the first athletes from India to sign professional baseball contracts outside of India. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that it is believed the Pirates signed Singh and Patel for bonuses between $15,000 and $20,000 each.
Perhaps the Pirates are turning over a new page; in the past the organization rarely searched for players in nontraditional markets. Pirates’ general manager Neal Huntington had this to say about the new players:
“The Pirates are committed to creatively adding talent to our organization. By adding these two young men, the Pirates are pleased to not only add two prospects to our system but also hope to open a pathway to an untapped market. We are intrigued by Patel’s arm strength and Singh’s frame and potential.”
Whether or not Singh or Patel ever make the Pirates’ major league club is questionable, but Huntington doesn’t seem to be the only one confident in their ability to play at the highest level. Jeff Borris, Barry Bonds’ agent, signed both after watching them workout in Southern California and liked their raw potential.
Likewise, the 18-year-old Mpho Ngoepe could become the first player from South Africa to reach the majors. The switch-hitting shortstop is scheduled to play for his country in the World Baseball Classic, after which he will likely join the Pirates’ Gulf Coast Rookie League team in Bradenton, FL. Also like Singh and Patel, Ngoepe is a project for the Pirates, as his game is rather unpolished but shows promise. The “Gift” had the opportunity to train with former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin at an MLB sponsored academy, and Ngoepe appears to be integrating some of Barry’s style into his own.
If any of these players make a major league squad it would mean a great deal for the globalization of baseball. No longer will Asia and the Americas be the only source for young talent. Regarding the signing of Singh and Patel and the Pirates leading the way in new markets, scout Ray Poitevint expressed that, “For the Pirates to be at the forefront with this is really a coup for them. I admire Pittsburgh for coming and taking charge. Usually it’s Boston or the Yankees, but the Pirates took charge.” If I had to guess, as soon as these guys show some real promise, Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein will both be sending a team of scouts to India and Africa.