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?