Baseball dream ends but 23-yr-old Varanasi youth returns a winner
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This is what American sporting dreams are made of. Shaking hands with Barack Obama, partying with baseball all-time great Barry Bonds and running into football star Ronaldinho. Only Dinesh Patel, now 23, lived it.
So what if he wakes up every morning now on a charpoy in Khanpur village of Varanasi? Patel, picked through a baseball talent hunt, 'Million Dollar Arm' in 2008, and "off-loaded" two years later, says he will always cherish the experience.
These days, Patel is busy with his school intermediate exams. Having dropped out of school when he got picked through the talent hunt, he hopes to complete it now.
Patel was selected along with javelin thrower Rinku Singh from 37,000 participants (he was runner-up to Singh), for his speed and accuracy in pitching the ball, and taken to Florida. He played as a pitcher for Pittsburgh Pirates for a season. "The Pittsburgh guys were kind to us. Both Rinku and I were given the same room so we'd be comfortable," he says.
The high point for Patel was meeting the US President. "I will always cherish that moment when, as (the talent hunt) winners from India and because of our performance in baseball, Rinku and I were invited to meet Obama at the White House. He said, 'well done, keep it up'," recalls Patel, with visible delight. Later, they got to meet Ronaldinho.
Another sporting giant they met was Barry Bonds, a legendary batter who played for Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants. "When we signed the contract, we went to Haldiram's in the US and told them we wanted to throw a party for about 40 people. They told us they would supply good Indian food free of cost. We were very happy when even Bonds turned up," Patel says.
Back home now, Patel is keeping open the option of returning to javelin, a sport he once played. "I had even won a gold at the National School Games at Pune in 2006 in javelin throw," he says.