Baseball in India
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|Governing body||Amateur Baseball Federation of India|
|First played||Early 1940s|
|Part of a series on the|
|History of baseball|
Baseball was played in Manipur as early as World War II when the US Army Air Force flew supplies to China over the Himalayas, known as "Flying the Hump", and the locals learned the game from the troops stationed there. Because of civil unrest, the Manipuris were very isolated in this remote, impoverished state in the northeast of India and the game has remained strong there in the face of the domination of cricket in Indian media to the present day.
The Amateur Baseball Federation of India was founded in 1983 and India's first national baseball championship occurred in 1985, taking place in New Delhi. That same year, it joined both the International Baseball Federation along with the Baseball Federation of Asia. In 2006, MLB International sent Envoy coaches to India to train local coaches and players in partnership with First Pitch, an India-based grass-roots baseball organisation.
The first ballpark in India was opened on 5 February 2017 at a farmhouse on the Gurgaon-Delhi border by Grand Slam Baseball and recognised by WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari. Built by social entrepreneur and baseball enthusiast Raunaq Sahni, India's first and only regulation-size baseball ground is named Field of Dreams in homage to the 1989 American film of the same name.
Sahni had set up Grand Slam Baseball in 2013 as a grass-roots sports initiative to help organise tournaments and coaching programmes for youths across the country. Before the birth of Grand Slam Baseball, the sport was mostly played among expats and among government school players. Grand Slam Baseball changed this by starting pay-for-play programmes at elite private schools in Delhi-NCR while also sponsoring an equal amount of government school players.
In 2019, MLB announced a partnership with IPL cricket franchise Delhi Capitals to promote Million Dollar Arm and First Pitch; Capitals' assistant coach Mohammad Kaif exchanged his team shirt for a London Series Red Sox shirt and was filmed hitting a baseball at a promotional event.
Million Dollar Arm
In 2007, struggling MLB agent J.B. Bernstein decided to start a competition in India titled Million Dollar Arm, a talent search for the best throwing arms in India. He gained his inspiration after watching ESPN's broadcast of a cricket match featuring bowlers that bowled at speeds as high as 150 km/h and realising that India was one of the largest untapped environments for baseball. Despite being inspired by cricketers, the two winners were 19-year-old javelin throwers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel. Although he did not reach the million-dollar mark, Singh won $1,00,000 for the fastest delivery of the contest and Patel won $5,000. They were also invited to the United States to train and try out for Major League Baseball teams. Eventually, both pitchers were signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates organisation and became the first two Indians to play professional baseball.
Patel ended up having a successful 2009 season for Pirates' Gulf Coast League team, finishing with a 1–0 record and a 1.42 ERA in 6⅓ innings. His 2010 season was not successful with his ERA going up to 8.59 in 7⅓ innings. He was released after the season and returned to India where he now teaches baseball and has prepared kids for subsequent seasons of Million Dollar Arm.
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- Kohli, Sharad (6 February 2017). "Field of Dreams: Giving wings to India's baseball aspirations". The Times of India. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
- Gupta, Shivani (9 February 2017). "Major League Baseball coaches train kids in India's first pro-baseball field in Delhi". India Today. Retrieved 2019-04-23.
- Amsan, Andrew (12 November 2017). "Chasing a Home Run: India takes its first steps towards baseball". The Indian Express. Retrieved 2019-04-23.
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- Bagga, Bhrigu (2 July 2019). "MLB and Delhi Capitals look to spread baseball in India". Sportstar. The Hindu Group.
- WordsWork [@WordsWorkPR] (2 July 2019). ".@MohammadKaif shows young kids how to take a swing in baseball at the @MLB launch in India" (Tweet) – via Twitter.