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11/24/2008 5:34 PM ET
Pirates sign pair of Indian-born players
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The Pittsburgh Pirates today signed 20-year-old left-handed pitcher Rinku Singh and 19-year-old right-handed pitcher Dinesh Kumar Patel as non-drafted free agents. Singh and Patel are the first-ever Indian-born players to sign a professional sports contract outside of the country, which has a population of more than 1.1 billion people. The announcement was made by Pirates senior vice president, general manager Neal Huntington.

"The Pirates are committed to creatively adding talent to our organization. By adding these two young men, we are pleased to not only add two prospects to our system but also hope to open a pathway to an untapped market," said Huntington. "We are intrigued by Patel's arm strength and Singh's frame and potential. These young men have improved a tremendous amount in their six month exposure to baseball and we look forward to helping them continue to fulfill their potential."

Singh and Patel, who worked out in front of scouts from the Pirates and other Major League organizations on November 12 at the University of Southern California, emerged as the top two participants of the "Million Dollar Arm" contest in India. The contest concluded its first ever edition this past March and had more than 30,000 entries. The winner of the contest was based on what person could throw the most pitches 85 miles per hour or faster for strikes.

Singh, who was born in Bhadoni, Uttar Pradesh, India, is the youngest of nine children in his family. Patel, who was born in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India, comes from a family of five brothers and sisters. Both Singh and Patel learned English by watching Baseball Tonight and also by taking online classes when they came to the United States beginning in May.
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