Million Dollar Arm – Sports Agent JB Bernstein
Million Dollar Arm is about sports agent JB Bernstein, who is portrayed as a struggling agent low on cash and desperate for a high-profile client. One evening while channel surfing, Bernstein becomes intrigued with a cricket game on TV. As he watches more and more of the match, he suddenly comes up with an idea.
Bernstein is convinced that since cricket players, specifically the “bowlers”, can throw a ball at very high speeds, they can be taught to throw baseballs equally fast and be transformed into major league pitchers. He travels to India and holds an American Idol-like contest that would reward a million dollars to the bowler that can throw a baseball the hardest, plus a chance to be signed by a Major League Baseball team; the show is to be called the “Million Dollar Arm”.
Thousands of Indian kids come out to try their luck, but most of them can only throw the ball 30-40 mph and do not have any control. Rinku Singh, a javelin thrower, ends up winning the contest with a 87 mph pitch, but Dinesh Patel impresses Bernstein with enough raw talent that he is also invited to Los Angeles to train with pitching coach Tom House for seven months. Under House’s tutelage, Singh and Patel increase their velocity and after two tryouts, they are signed by the Pittsburg Pirates, becoming the first Indians to be signed by a professional sports team in the United States.
In the video below, Bernstein narrates the story behind his 2008 Million Dollar Arm reality show. It includes interviews with Tom House, Dinesh Patel, and Rinku Singh about their training. There are real-life clips of Rinku and Dinesh’s experiences in America, including trying to figure out how to use a water fountain, that a baseball glove is not used to keep your hands warm, and their reaction when Bernstein informs both that they have been signed to minor league contracts by the Pittsburg Pirates.
ESPN’s Outside The Lines produced this 10-minute documentary about this unlikely story of Rinku and Dinesh.
Contributing author: Brian Obudho
Million Dollar Arm – Real Life, Reel Differences
- The movie credits Bernstein with the idea for the million-dollar contest but in reality, it was venture capitalist Ash Vasudevan and real estate mogul Will Chang who conceived the idea. The pair thought of traveling to Vasudevan’s native India to search for athletes who could learn how to play baseball. At that time, JB Bernstein was Barry Bond’s agent while Will Chang was a shareholder of the San Francisco Giants. Vasudevan and Chang hired Bernstein to perform the task. Despite being hesitant at first, Bernstein finally agreed. The contest was inspired by the success of how Yao Ming made basketball popular in China.
- As depicted in the movie, the two youngsters came from being unknowns and rose to attract the attention of their one billion countrymen. Dinesh and Patel both rose from extreme poverty to the bright lights and big money of Major League Baseball, transforming their lives completely.
- In the film, Brenda was a doctor but in reality, she was an executive in an aviation industry. Around the time of the movie, Brenda was the operator relations and director of commercial aircraft sales for Virgin Charter. Brenda currently holds a position at Embraer Executive Jets
- It’s true JB Bernstein needed a deal that could save him from his financial troubles. In reality, JB had clients like Emmitt Smith and Curtis Martin, but they had retired. His biggest client, Barry Bonds, had been indicted by a federal court.
- As in the cinema, the contest attracted a massive attention from Indians. It first aired in 2007 and drew more than 38,000 contestants. While most of the candidates who turned up were cricket players, Rinku and Dinesh won even though they were not cricket players. None of them was able to win the $1 million, but Singh was rewarded with $100,000 for throwing the fastest, 88mph, and Patel received $5000. In truth, the finals took place at CKT University. On top of the monetary prize, the contestants had a bonus chance to win $1 million if he could throw three consecutive strikes with a minimum speed of 90mph plus an invitation to the US to try their luck in professional baseball.
Where Are They Now?
JB Bernstein is the Chief Executive Officer of Access Group and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Seven Figures Management. Both organizations are involved with sports marketing, athlete management, and athlete representation. He started out in advertising but became a successful sports marketing agent and built a roster of high-end clients, including Barry Bonds.
As of May 2014, Bernstein was preparing for the third season of Million Dollar Arm and expected a turnout of around 500,000 contestants. JB claims the contest has helped transformed his life.
Dinesh Patel was the right-handed pitcher signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Patel had a successful first year in the minor league. He was, however, let go during his second year (2010). Before the Pirates released him, he recorded a 1-0 with 5.27 ERA in 13 2/3 professional innings. His speed topped out at mid-80s and the organization had no option but to let him go.
Patel went back to India to obtain a degree in English and Hindi studies. He later traveled to MLB Academy in China to teach himself coaching techniques. During the second season of Million Dollar Arm, when Patel was 25 years, he was happy to lend a hand. He assisted in launching the contest and in training the finalists.
He has returned to his javelin career and competed in 2011 at the National Athletics Championships.
Today, he is still an active advocate for baseball in his village and other parts of India.
Rinku Singh, the left-handed pitcher, has had more success compared to Patel, but his career has been full of injuries. After a great season with West Virginia Power in 2012, he missed the entire 2013 season due to injury. He was invited to spring training by the Pittsburg Pirates in 2014, but suffered arm injury in May and had to get Tommy John surgery.
He was not able to assist with Season 2 of Million Dollar Arm because he was still playing baseball in the US. Singh also plays in the Australian and Dominican Republic leagues, and even made the World All-Star team during the Australian Baseball League All-Star game in 2011.
Here is an interview on the MLB network, just before the release of the movie in May 2014, where Rinku talks about his experiences from the contest to where he is now.
Below is the latest transaction history for Rinku Singh. For updates past July 2016, visit the MiLB.com (Minor League Baseball) website.