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Is India the next hotbed for baseball talent?

Dec 2, 2013, 8:05 AM EDT

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When you mention “baseball in India,” the only thing most people think of is Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, those guys who won MLB contracts after winning a reality show several years ago. But there are people trying to grow the game in India beyond that somewhat gimmicky episode:

Indian Raunaq Sahni and his American friend Jackson Golden have launched Grand Slam Baseball – an umbrella initiative aiming to bring the various Indian fringe baseball teams, associations and enthusiasts under one umbrella and grow the sport at the grass root level.

Talking about how the initiative began, Jackson Golden says, ‘I lived in Delhi for 16 years and played baseball here with friends and at the American Embassy. But hardly anyone here knew about the sport or had facilities to play. So I came back from college in the US to start this initiative.’

The story has the familiar “Indians love cricket and cricket skills translate well to baseball, so India is bound to become a baseball hotbed eventually” kind of talk.  And, with the caveat that I think it would be awesome if a new baseball talent source like India started producing prospects, color me dubious that it will happen any time soon.

Just reverse the thinking: “Americans love baseball and baseball skills translate well to cricket, so America is bound to become a cricket hotbed eventually.” It doesn’t really make sense, does it? It doesn’t because it takes more than a population base with roughly analogous skills. It takes interest and a culture and incentives that are in place for the talent to take advantage of. We see this even within different American regions: way more baseball talent comes from Texas and California than comes from Pennsylvania. Why? Culture, intensity of the amateur baseball community, weather and a bunch of other things.

It’s be cool if baseball became a big thing in India. But why would any kid who is talented in baseball not try to make a go of it in cricket first, when that path is way more established? And if it’s because he can’t cut it in cricket, how great a baseball talent is he likely to be?

  1. tfbuckfutter - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    When someone mentions baseball in India the first thing I think is “what the hell are you talking about?”

  2. Charles Gates - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    More talent comes from TX and CA because of how big they are relative to PA. More kids yields a larger absolute subset of kids good at baseball. You need to use rate stats to make this argument (not that any stats were cited to begin with).

    • stex52 - Dec 2, 2013 at 9:26 AM

      Population, partially. But it’s also weather related. Guys can at least be practicing down here almost any time between February and November. The whole Gulf Coast area is strong for baseball and women’s softball.

      Now if we could just do something about all of these damned football fans……..

  3. aphillieated - Dec 2, 2013 at 8:42 AM

    Nah.

  4. canadatude - Dec 2, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    Very very good, Sir.

  5. manute - Dec 2, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    You hit the nail on the head. Things might have been different 10-15 years ago, but today there is so much money in cricket that the top athletes would have no incentive to switch sports. It’s like telling an American kid with a good arm that he has a chance to bowl in the Indian Premier League.

    • clydeserra - Dec 2, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      Can’t wait for MS Dhoni to be posted. A catcher that can hit! Sign him up.

  6. Gordon - Dec 2, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    Maybe a kid who is good enough at cricket will go for baseball just so they can get the hell out of India.

    I mean, they still have the plague! (Seinfeld reference)

    • stex52 - Dec 2, 2013 at 9:28 AM

      Recognize the Seinfeld reference. But we still have the plague in the good ole US of A. It’s just treatable now.

      • tfbuckfutter - Dec 2, 2013 at 11:59 AM

        Boo! Thumbs down for being able to treat the plague!

        Boo!

      • stex52 - Dec 2, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        Morning, Tbuck! Havign a cranky day? :-)

      • stex52 - Dec 2, 2013 at 1:12 PM

        I got your reference. Just couldn’t resist. Hope you had a good holiday. I felt like crap this morning.

    • anxovies - Dec 2, 2013 at 2:43 PM

      I can proudly say that my home state of New Mexico had the nation’s first case of plague this year. Land of the flea and home of the plague!

  7. shanabartels - Dec 2, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    The linked article looks like it was written by a 12-year-old. I hope it was just a rough translation from something that was originally written in Hindi, because it’s pretty poor writing if it in fact started out in English.

  8. asimonetti88 - Dec 2, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    Building interest in a sport is not easy but it’s not impossible. It will take a lot longer than these two gentlemen have though. They may spend the rest of their lives working on this task without it fulling taking root. But if they dedicate themselves, they can certainly build the groundwork. Look at soccer here in America- it is finally starting to grow to the point where Americans are playing at a high level in the EPL, etc. But it’s been a long time coming, and soccer has actually been a major participant sport here for many years already.

  9. denny65 - Dec 2, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    Well, adding curry to the clubhouse pre- and/or post-game spread is not such a bad idea.

    “Hey cookie, we’re running low on the Basmati rice here, for crying out loud!”

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