There’s a ton of excitement brewing about the new Disney film Million Dollar Arm. And rightfully so. With a new inspirational family film out about the journey of 3 men, JB Bernstein, Rinku Singh & Dinesh Patel that shows how dreams do come true. More on the movie soon. This post is all about the real people that are portrayed in the film. Interviewing them was fantastic. What great guys!
Here’s a little backdrop of the “real” people.
JB Bernstein is the CEO of Access Group, an athlete management firm and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Seven Figures Management, a sports marketing and athlete representation firm. Bernstein created The Million Dollar Arm contest in India, which yielded the first two Indian men (Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel) to ever sign pro sports contracts in the US.
Dinesh Patel is a right-handed baseball pitcher who played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Along with Rinku Singh, he was the first Indian national ever to sign a contract with a major American sports club. Neither Patel nor Singh had ever thrown a baseball before besting over 37,000 competitors in The Million Dollar Arm, an Indian reality television show designed to find new baseball talent.
Rinkuh Singh is a left-handed baseball pitcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Singh was signed by the Pittsburgh organization after he also won a pitching contest on a 2008 reality television show, The Million Dollar Arm. He was the first Indian to play minor league baseball and has also spent several seasons in the minor leagues.
Million Dollar Arm Interview with the real JB, Rinku, AND Dinesh
JB, not shy sits right down and jumps in with greeting us all.
JB: How’s everybody doing? Good. Good. Is this the Free Lunch or what?
Q: In the Movie, it shows you came to decide to do “The Million Dollar Arm” contest. Would you say it was relatively accurate to how you actually began the Million Dollar Arm journey?
JB: You know, some of the things they touch on is that the inspirations are accurate like you know, American Idol and seeing cricket. But like any idea, I have business partners and they were part of the idea generation but it’s hard to tell a movie from 80 points of view. In reality, my two business partners, Will Chang and Aasif Suferat, where both in the movie, and they helped and we kind of were all thinking about these things separately and it wasn’t really until we came together that the idea, came from this nebulous fuzzy thing of – hey, we should try to find talent in India too. We should try to do this type of game show and see if we could find some athletes. So it’s — it’s pretty accurate in that it shows the inspirations for things but obviously, I’m not smart enough to come up with this idea about myself.
Q: The movie we’re left with seeing that you and Brenda now have a daughter, right? So just what’s life like for you being a dad and what kind of advice would you give to dads?
JB: Wow, Delphine’s only 3 so I don’t know that I would qualify to give advice just yet after only 3 years. I’m still probably taking advice. Having Rinku and Dinesh live with me gave me a taste of fatherhood. It reminded me of the importance of family. It reminded me of the importance of being surrounded by people that you love and that love you. And being able to take pride in other people’s accomplishments, a lot of the rudimentary lessons of life came back into focus, so I think in a lot of ways, I started being a parent, although kind of Baptism by fire with these guys.
And then with Delphine, the best advice I can give to any parent I think is to treasure your time. It’s almost inconceivable that she’s 3 years old. It’s almost inconceivable that this was 2008 and 2009 when these guys were living with me. It just, the time goes so fast, and there’s no way you can possibly cherish time enough with your kids. So I guess that’s the best advice I can give. Other than that, I’m actually in the taking advice mode so if you have any, just text. A lot of you have been tweeting me. Send out all the advice. I’m taking it.
Q: Watching this movie and seeing your lives, how does it feel seeing yourself in the movie?
DINESH: (Who is very shy and lives back in India now, so English isn’t his first everyday language anymore. He has a great smile, and is just happy to be here and is super sweet with his broken English) This is a big deal for me. I’m very happy and my family is also happy, so good deal.
Q: What about Suraj playing you?
RINKU: (He’s not shy. His English is much stronger yet too has an accent. He’s very nice and seems more Americanized. He was much more open to answering questions.) He’s done a great job. I mean, he’s not just a great actor, he’s also a great human. Meeting him as a person, it just really meant a lot how he really was nice and plus seeing this movie. I really liked it. It was pretty, inspirational and he done a great job. And the way he actually did it, was awesome. I really liked it. That really made me reminded me of 2008, little Indian that I was. (We all laugh!)
Q: How was it learning the game?
RINKU: Yes, it really takes some time. Just like, if you took an American baseball player and make them become a cricket player, they have no idea how to pitch in Cricket, right? So that was totally different world for me coming here and playing professional baseball. Had no idea. It did take a year but I believe that it doesn’t matter what you’re doing in your life if you’re willing to give whatever you got inside and out, you are gonna succeed. So it took to a year.
Q: In the movie, it was really important part when you guys left India. What was that like to leave your families and what kind of role has family played in your life?
DINESH: My parents were really afraid by my leaving. They say, don’t go because this is the new world for me. And we didn’t travel out so they were very afraid.
RINKU: It was told now we didn’t just leave the family. Beside the family, we left our culture, family, friends, food, and we were just 18 year old kids. Making that huge decision wasn’t easy for us. That was just on top of everywhere. What are we gonna do without knowing anything about American culture. We don’t know language. We don’t know anybody besides JB. And our parents, they were really afraid cause we never went out of the country.
And that really changes our life, you know. That really teaches us, whatever come to your life, you make that decision if you’re willing to just like I said, you’re willing to give in and out, you are gonna be happy for the decision you made. So I’m really proud of the decision I made being in America. It’s totally amazing. It have changed my life, changed my family life, and you know, I wanted to stay here.
Q: If you could do everything all over again, would you do that?
RINKU: Would love to. Would love to. I’m learning a lot. I didn’t just walk through, that journey teaches a lot of things. It really make me and Dinesh like a all the people working “The Million Dollar Arm”, it really, for me personally, I grew up a lot from that. I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I wasn’t for the experience.
Q: (Premiere of Million Dollar Arm was right after the interviews.) With the premiere tonight, how do you feel? Are you excited?
DINESH: Yeah, I’m very excited.
JB: Rinku had the chance to screen the movie for his team down in Renton. Dinesh actually was at a screening with us with the Indian Ambassador of the United States. These guys have met Obama. I’ve been a sports agent for 20 years. I’ve never done anything good until I met these guys. You know, Lisa actually got to go to the White House so with them, who was our publicist over there. I was getting married that day.
I would probably speak for all of us when we say that this is a really personal journey for us. It’s not like your traditional business deal that I’ve done, this is something that obviously is a very pivotal point in our life. So you know, our hope is really two things. One is that people take away what these guys have endured, persevered in order to be successful and take away that lesson that you know, dreams are possible in this Country more so than maybe anywhere else in the world. Now for kids, to be able to look at Rinku and Dinesh as role models and say look, if these guys did this, you know, I can do anything.
It’s that first spark of hope not just for kids in India but for kids here, for kids everywhere. They have these two guys to look at, who have done something that’s never been done in the history of the world, to go from a position of never hearing of the sport. Rinku won his first game 13 months from the day he picked up a baseball. Dinesh won his first game 14 months from the first day that he picked up a baseball. And I mean, that’s just unheard of. I’ve been a sports man my whole life. I’ve been an agent my whole adult life. I’ve never heard of anything like this. I never heard of anybody even thinking something like this could be possible.
For my story, I think that I’m excited for people who realize it’s never too late to change. It’s never too late to be a better person and it’s not that I was a bad person. I think I was somewhat one dimensional. Everybody asks, were you really that big a jerk and I side stepped that question because I was like, well, I didn’t feel like a jerk at the time. I wasn’t trying to be. I just was very myopic and I think that, thanks to these guys, thanks to my family, I have a much different view. So I’m kind of hoping that those two things come through to the general audience but it’s exciting to be able after 6 years of negotiating and filming and whatever, to be able to actually finally share this with the world.
Q: How is the experience of the movie impacted your lives?
RINKU: Lot of grown up young kids that look at us as a, role model and even Dinesh like went back to our country, he helped a lot of kids teaching them how to play baseball and really help those kids. Sharing his journey, what he had been through that his journey meant a lot to those kids. It’s like when I was growing up like those kids. I had the same dream (many of those do today) to just get a job, support family, that’s it.
But since we did something different than those kids, it really opened their eyes and they are dreaming big now just like we gave them proof. We give them hope, even their moms and dads. They talk about, they (want to) be like Rinku and Dinesh. We already have done enough to make them realize that if you want to see dreams, see something big. So those kids really seeing their dream in us so…
JB: I’m excited that there’s this many questions. Usually I get up here and it’s Crickets so…
Q: At the end of the movie, it talks about how you’re still involved in “The Million Dollar Arm.” Is that something you’re still running in India or is it in different country now?
JB: No, still running it in India. We’ll start our 3rd season this winter. Our first season, we saw about 38,000 kids. This year we’ll see half a million. (Amazing right?) So Major League Baseball is now playing a big part in it. Disney, Simon & Shuster. You know, we have a lot more muscle to flex than it was just me, Rinku, Dinesh, Aash and Will. Not that the 5 of us aren’t formidable on some level. We have a little bit more muscle to flex and a little bit bigger microphone so I’m hoping kind of what Rinku said, I’m sure we’ll find talent and there’s a monetary side to this thing. But there’s a social side to this thing that really none of us saw coming that has really become the primary focus of “Million Dollar Arm” which sound weird for an agent to say cause you know, I’m suppose to be about making money. But um, this is a unique opportunity we have to have almost a social revolution.
Q: My question is for Rinku and Dinesh. Have your families been able to come to America to see your new life and if so, how do they feel about it?
RINKU: Answer is no, they haven’t. First of all, it’s gonna be a big cultural change for them. And plus baseball life is too busy. Family might then come here. First of all, they’re not gonna like it as I won’t be able to give them time. And I really don’t want my parents to feel that way. So I’m thinking when I’m gonna make it, I will definitely gonna bring them over here to see. And obviously, they are talking about, changing life. They already have seen enough, since we’ve moved to the states, and going back to India, they already have enough how much we have changed and how much we have changed their life.
JB: Immigration is not easy either. You get the passports and visas and when Rinku makes the majors, we’ll make a herculean effort to make sure his parents are there though.
Q: In the film you have a love for Porches. What are you driving these days?
JB: You know what’s funny is with my current family, I’ve actually gotten rid of two Porsches, got rid of the Carrera. I couldn’t even keep the 4-Door. I couldn’t even keep the Panamera. But we have what I like to call our tank which is our Volvo. That’s the only thing our kids allowed in. And then we have a Cadillac so yeah we got rid of all of our (other cars). I got my Mustang. Rinku actually has a Mustang now. Living vicariously once again through Rinku. (We all laugh.)
Q: Earlier you mentioned that the collaboration of the idea “The Million Dollar Arm” was between you, Chang, and Aash. So at the end of the Movie, the second try out was happening, Chang said that he was not going to back you. Was that an actual event that happened?
JB: No you know, Will is probably the nicest…first of all, Chang, it’s funny like I laughed when you said Chang because his name’s Will. No one calls him Chang. It was just something that was kind of invented with the movie script. And you know, Rinku probably says it best. With a Movie, this is a true story but they sprinkle a little cream on top to make it Hollywood. So one of the things that was probably the most dramatically changed from reality is Will. If I’d come to Will and said, Will you know, we need 5 years more, he’d be like OK, what’s next. You know, wouldn’t, like not even skip a beat.
He’s not really a mean guy but it works so much better in the movie for me to be under that kind of fear and pressure. So they threw that in there but in reality, he’s a super nice guy and he was as invested and continues to be as invested in these guys success and whatever is best for them. You know, that’s what the 3 of us do together.
Q: What was it like for Jon Hamm on the Big Screen with you?
JB: Well you know, the resemblance is striking. (We all laugh.) And I mean that by if they struck Jon in the face with a shovel. I can’t speak to what it was like for him to play me but I can tell you what it was like for me and have him play this role. As you guys know I’m sure, some of you by demographic watch “Mad Men.” I guess a lot of women watch that show. I don’t know why.
RINKU: Obviously, cause they love him.
JB: Exactly, exactly. It’s a good show. He’s probably one of the hottest actors in Hollywood. Everybody’s throwing parts at him. Every studio wants to get him into a film. They realize “Mad Men’s winding down. He’s the “It” guy.
So the fact that with everything available to you that he chose to play me is very humbling and surreal. He gets me really, really well.
It was really humbling and he’s become a good friend and someone that I really care about and someone who is just a genuinely good guy. You meet a lot of celebrities in my line of business and you realize they’re just like regular people. Some are very nice and some are jerks and the richer they are, the more free they are to be their true person and Jon is just one of these guys who probably has been the same since he was a kid. He’s the same guy, very even keeled, nice guy and I’m really lucky to have him play me. It hasn’t much at home though. My 3 year old doesn’t know who Jon Hamm is and doesn’t care.
Q: Dinesh, I read that you conquered this part. You started professional javelin. What sports if any would you like to learn and conquer next and for Rinku, I read that you actually like listening to Eminem before you pitch. I’d like to know what else do you do before you get out on the field at home?
JB: There’s not a lot of 5 11 guys in volleyball but you know, I’m not gonna tell this guy not to dream.
RINKU: Beside Eminem, there’s always a reminder that I don’t want to go back where I’m coming from. I want to make the changes where I’m coming from that really keeps me going cause like we just talked about earlier that there’s so many kids back home they’re seeing their dreaming in me so I really have to get going no matter what.
Whether I listen to Eminem, whether I don’t listen but before a game, it really make me realize that this is going to be my day, every game I pitch, it’s like my last game. This is like last game I’m pitching. So that’s how I keep it and that really helps.
Q: So obviously, the movies portray Indians a certain way and like the cities that you came from. A lot of Americans obviously have never been to India. Just as many people that live there haven’t been here. How do you feel about the portrayal compared to how it actually is?
RINKU: That’s a good question. First of all, you’ve never been to India, right? How many of you been to India? OK, so let’s talk if I’m Indian. I’ve never been to America. I’m going to be thinking exactly the same thing as you’re thinking right now cause you never been. I never had been to America just like you never been to India. There’s so many places that it is like that. If you really wanted to make movie, you can go even out in country, in America. You find places like that, that you can make it look like that. I’ve been here for 6 years. So there are places like that in India but it’s a movie, it’s not 100% true.
JB: To add onto what Rinku is saying is India, cause I’ve been to a lot of places in India, maybe even more than these guys. And it’s so diverse. There are so many types of places. There’s huge cities obviously Delhi and Bangalore. These amazing technical centers, huge office buildings. Proctor and Gamble, Apple, everybody’s there. Then there are villages like where these guys came from which are kind of rural, just what you would almost call middle class. Farming Villages. Everybody lives off the land. They have honorable jobs. They work hard with strong family units. There are villages that are somewhere in between. They’re like what you might call mid-cities like Varanasi which is about 30 minutes from where Dinesh lives, which happens to be the birthplace of 3 religions. It’s more of an old world city than a city like Delhi which looks almost like Boston or something. The diversity from place to place is so broad that there’s no way you could do a movie about India and characterize the entire country, but where these guys came from were what India might consider almost like middle classes, nice farming villages. They both had good homes. They both had good families.
They both went to high school. As a matter of fact, Rinku’s family especially, I think you’re very proud that your father was able to send all the 7 kids through school. Every single one of them. It’s really an amazing thing. His dad, as amazing as Rinku is, I hope you don’t mind me saying, his dad is even more amazing. Rinku and Dinesh’s parents as well, the lengths that they went to, to keep the family together and I think that’s kind of apropos for this group, is amazing. And that’s the story more so than the geography or the trappings of villages or whatever it may be, is the length Indian families will go to keep together as a family is how, the best way I would characterize India. Is that fair?
RINKU: You said it perfect.
Q: In the 6 years that you guys have been here, do you feel like you’re much more acclimated to this Country that you feel more at home here or do you still feel like you’re missing home?
RINKU: Home is always gonna be home no matter what. No matter how happy you are in other country but you always gonna miss home. I’m pretty sure that it would be the same for you guys. Doesn’t matter where you live. You always miss your home. Like for me, being here, I have to be happy. I am happy to be here just cause of my dream is here. My dream is here. I got my mom and dad there and I go once in a year, go back to home, get my heart charged, get ready for another year or two, whatever it’s gonna come in front. But talking about happy in America, yes. But, like I said, home is always gonna be home. And I always gonna miss home. And I’ve been missing it so..
JB: You’ve had the experience of both so now you’re back and lived here for awhile. What do you think? (To Dinesh)
DINESH: When I was here, I miss a lot of home. But right now, I’m living in India with my family. I’m happy.
JB: Do you miss America now that you’re back?
DINESH: Yeah. (We all laugh.)
JB: What do you miss? Movies? TV?
DINESH: Of course. Pizza.
JB: Of all the true parts, that is one of them!
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MILLION DOLLAR ARM opens in theaters on May 16, 2014!