"Million Dollar Arm" delivers fast pitch at the American Dream

Rinku Singh has an All-American Dream -- to play in the major leagues one day for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

CBS News

Rinku Singh has an All-American Dream: to play in the major leagues one day for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But how he got this far is one of the most improbable stories in baseball.

"This idea was definitely outside the box," said J.B. Bernstein, a sports marketing agent with marquee clients like Barry Bonds and Barry Sanders.

In 2008, he created a reality show about baseball called "Million Dollar Arm." "The goal was to find somebody with the raw talents to be able play to come back to the United States as the first Indian baseball player," Bernstein said.

That story inspired the new movie "Million Dollar Arm," featuring "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm as Bernstein. The film opened on Friday.

The show looked for contestants in India, which is home to 1.3 billion people.

Problem was few of them had heard of baseball.

"So we put baseballs in kids' hands and took radar guns out there to prove one of the oldest adages in sports, which is, 'Give me a kid who can throw real hard and I can teach him everything else,'" Bernstein said.

In 2008, 37,000 Indians tried out in four major cities.

"With that many people you find a pretty crazy cast coming through . . . so many balls were gone -- into the street, wide, left, high. So yeah, you saw a lot of wild pitching," Bernstein said.

Then came the big moment everyone was waiting for. Singh, a tall, left-handed javelin-thrower, stepped up to the plate.

"He got up there in this pose like a flamingo and stood there for almost 40 seconds just holding the ball -- in a million years you would have never expected him to throw that hard," said Bernstein.

Singh won the show and $100,000. He became the richest man in his small village. Yet, he had no knowledge about America's pastime -- baseball.

"I had no clue, no clue," said Singh. "What's a strike? What's a ball? It was completely new."

He flew to Los Angeles, where he had to learn English, American culture, and baseball.

"I had no idea where I was going to put my feet. Instead of putting them here, I was standing anywhere," Singh said.

But the Pirates liked his raw talent, and signed him to a minor league contract in 2009.

"He learned quick and he wanted to grow up," said pitching coach Miguel Bonilla.

In 2009, Singh became the first Indian to appear in a minor league game, and the first Indian pitcher to win one. Every season, he has improved and often excelled.

His fastball clocks in at 92 miles per hour.

"If I continue to do what I'm doing right now, believing in myself, believing in my work ethic, believing where I'm going from, it's going to happen one day," Singh said.

Singh's story now has major league baseball actively scouting in India, and while he's still waiting for his chance in the big leagues, his story had already made it on the big screen.