Is India the next hotbed for baseball talent?

16 Comments

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?

Pirates activate Starling Marte

AP Images
Leave a comment

Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is back in the lineup after the team reinstated him from the 10-day disabled list on Saturday. Marte served the bare minimum on the DL after making a rapid recovery from the right oblique strain that sidelined him several weeks ago.

Prior to landing on the disabled list, the 29-year-old outfielder was off to a strong start. He slashed a robust .308/.366/.503 with six home runs, 10 stolen bases and an .869 OPS in 175 plate appearances with the team. This is the first time he’s dealt with an oblique issue, and the first DL stint he’s served since he suffered a bout of back tightness in 2016. While he has yet to prove he can bounce back to his pre-injury production levels, his quick recovery bodes well for a successful return to major-league play.

In a corresponding move, outfielder Jose Osuna was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. The move came as somewhat of a surprise, given that the Pirates elected to retain top prospect outfielder Austin Meadows rather than the more established Osuna. Meadows was recalled from Triple-A in the wake of Marte’s injury and has only played seven games at the major league level so far, but he’s already made a strong impression: he went 13-for-29 with three home runs, two stolen bases and five RBI since his call-up on May 18.