|Born: 8 August 1988|
Gopiganj Bhadohi, Uttar Pradesh, India
Rinku Singh (born 8 August 1988) is an Indian professional wrestler and retired professional baseball player currently signed with WWE and performs in their developmental territory NXT. Singh was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization after he won a pitching contest on a 2008 reality television show The Million Dollar Arm. He was the first Indian to play professional baseball and spent several seasons in the minor leagues, reaching Single-A level. He is the subject of the movie Million Dollar Arm.
Singh grew up in poverty, the son of a truck driver, in a rural village in Bhadohi. Singh was one of nine siblings who all lived in the family's one-room house. The home had electricity but relied on well water. Singh threw javelin and played cricket as a little boy. He was a junior national javelin medalist. Singh is an alumnus of the Guru Gobind Singh Sports College, Lucknow.
In early 2008, Singh entered an Indian reality television show The Million Dollar Arm. The contest was created by American sports agent J. B. Bernstein and his partners Ash Vasudevan and Will Chang to find the individual in the country who could throw the fastest and most accurate baseball. Having never heard of baseball before, Singh won the contest out of over 37,000 participants after throwing 87 miles per hour. The grand prize for the contest was $100,000.
After winning the contest, Singh and runner-up Dinesh Patel travelled to Los Angeles where they trained with University of Southern California pitching coach Tom House, who trained pitchers such as Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. Singh said that most of his family did not agree with his decision to go to the United States. On their first day in the United States the two attended their first baseball game at USC. They continued to learn the game from House and Bernstein, as well as learning English.
Professional baseball career
Singh, along with Patel, tried out in front of scouts from 20 Major League Baseball teams in November 2008, and Singh's pitches reached 92 miles per hour (148 km/h). Reports from Pittsburgh Pirates scouts Joe Ferrone and Sean Campbell led to general manager Neal Huntington signing both to contracts with the organization. With the deal, the pair became the first Indians to sign American major league baseball contracts. The total signing bonus for the two was $8,000. After training, the two returned to visit their families in India before entering Pirates training camp in Bradenton, Florida. Singh and Patel began the 2009 baseball season with the Pirates' Gulf Coast League affiliate.
On 4 July 2009, Singh became the first Indian citizen to appear in a professional baseball game in the US. He pitched the seventh inning, while Dinesh Patel pitched the eighth inning. On 13 July 2009, Singh won his first professional baseball game in America, striking out the only batter he faced. He finished the season with a 1–2 record and a 5.84 ERA in 11 games, allowing just one run on three hits in his final six appearances.
Singh went 2–0 with a 2.61 ERA over 13 games with the Pirates GCL affiliate in 2010. At the end of August, Singh was promoted to the Pirates Class A Short-Season affiliate, the State College Spikes. He met with US President Barack Obama at a White House Heritage Month event on 24 May 2010. Singh played for the Canberra Cavalry of the Australian Baseball League for the competition's inaugural 2010–11 season, going 1–0 with a 3.94 ERA in 16 innings pitched.
Singh opened the 2011 season in the Dominican Summer League. Singh pitched well in eight games spread over the DSL, Gulf Coast League and New York–Penn League, then joined the West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League in July 2011. Singh returned to the Australian Baseball League for the 2011–12 season with the Adelaide Bite. He made the World All-Star team for the 2011 Australian Baseball League All-Star Game. In 2012, he pitched in a career-high 39 games for the Power, throwing 72 innings, earning a 3–1 win–loss record and striking out 65 batters. Singh has struggled with injuries and missed the entire 2013 season, but he was invited to 2014 spring training by the Pirates. Singh also missed the entire 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery. Singh also missed all of the 2015 season due to a broken elbow.
The Pirates re-signed Singh on 9 November 2015. He made one appearance for the Gulf Coast League Pirates in 2016, pitching one scoreless inning.
Professional wrestling career
On 13 January 2018, Singh signed a contract with WWE. On May 31, 2018, he made his in-ring debut at a NXT live event in Tampa, in a loss to Kassius Ohno. On March 21, 2019, he started being managed by Robert Strauss on NXT live events.
Patel and Singh's story is the basis for the Walt Disney Pictures sports film, Million Dollar Arm, where Singh was portrayed by Suraj Sharma. In 2009, Columbia Pictures purchased the screen rights to the story of Singh and Patel. The project stalled and eventually producers Joe Roth and Mark Ciardi set the film up at Walt Disney Pictures. Upon acquiring Million Dollar Arm, Disney hired Tom McCarthy to write the film. Jon Hamm played J.B. Bernstein.
In 2012, Singh became a vegetarian after he witnessed several men in Bhadohi chasing a chicken in order to kill it. That year, he said that he recites the devotional Hanuman Chalisa and listens to Eminem's "Not Afraid" before he pitches.
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- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Million-Dollar Arm blog
- Call-in web radio show with Dinesh Patel, Rinku Singh and JB Bernstein, November 2008