Is India the next hotbed for baseball talent?

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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?

He gone! Hawk Harrelson called his last game yesterday

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Ken Harrelson has been broadcasting for decades but yesterday was his last one. As of today the Hawk has hung up his mic and entered retirement. He gone!

Harrelson, 77, who played in the majors for nine seasons with the A’s, Red Sox, Indians and Senators and led the AL in RBI in 1968. He was also the White Sox’ general manager for a single season in the mid-80s. That didn’t go well — he famously fired Tony La Russa and Dave Dombrowski and traded away a young Bobby Bonilla, but his career as a broadcaster went swimmingly.

Harrelson served as a Red Sox broadcaster from 1975 through 1981. Despite his reputation as an unrepentant homer for his White Sox — who he called “the good guys,” as opposed to the “bad guys” playing them — he was actually fired as a Red Sox broadcaster for being critical of ownership. He then embarked on his first stint with the White Sox before his move into the front office, worked as a Yankees broadcaster from 1987-88 and worked games for NBC’s Game of the Week in the mid-1980s as well. He then returned to call games for the White Sox in 1990 and the rest is history.

Hawk will still be a team ambassador for Chicago so he not totally gone, but the White Sox broadcast booth is entering a new era.