Jeff Bernstein, the agent for Indian pitching prospects Rinku and Dinesh, reports that the controversy with the Topps representative has been cleared up. He is not a very, very bad man after all.
On Tuesday, Rinku and Dinesh reported on their blog that they had been fleeced by a Topps baseball card representative, who convinced them to sign a contract under false pretenses. Not so said Bernstein, the "JB Sir" referenced so often in the Indian teenagers' blog, Our Baseball Yatra.
"They misunderstood that Topps guy and have since amended their blog; Topps did nothing wrong," Bernstein told me by phone. "They mistook his saying that he knew me, as me saying it was OK to sign. Very harmless, and they are sorry to have caused any trouble. I've been working with Topps for many years, and they are far above this."
Bernstein is a little concerned, however, that Rinku and Dinesh are signing any piece of paper that's shoved in front of them. "I thought I had them trained better than that," he said. "I'm actually kind of worried that I'm going to find out that Rinku signed a contract to appear naked in a circus act somewhere. Or that they gave money to someone from Nigeria who promised to pay them a million dollars from a frozen bank account. It's an ongoing process with these guys. But it's all good; they are two of the best kids you could ever want."
Rinku and Dinesh are currently playing at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., where they will enter extended spring training as soon as the major league roster is set. They will start out with the Rookie League's Gulf Coast Pirates.
"The goal is to get them into as many game situations as possible," Bernstein said. "They will be used in short bursts, just to give them game experience. Hopefully they can make it to high A or double A by the end of the year. They will also probably play winter ball."
Bernstein says that the two love it in Florida, get along well with their teammates and have even learned to play pool. But that's where the similarities with American teenagers pretty much ends.
"There's a big difference between an 18-year-old kid with their background and an 18-year-old from the U.S.," Bernstein said. "Rinku and Dinesh weren't slumdogs in India, but they grew up in a world where you worked from sunrise to sunset farming food. They didn't play video games or go out and get a fake ID. When they were working out for scouts last year, they're probably the only kids to have spent three weeks at USC on sorority row and never seen a girl. They aren't here to drink beer, they're trying to save their families, change everything in their village at home.
"And it's not like they criticize American teenagers for the way they live, but they realize that they're a decade behind everyone here, baseball-wise, and they have to catch up. So they work out, and then it's back to the dorm studying baseball."
Million Dollar Arm the Indian reality show where the two were discovered, begins its second season in November. That will produce at least two more Indian pitchers, who will come to the U.S. and try and catch on with a pro franchise.
"And it could be more than two," Bernstein said. "We've already got hundreds of thousands of requests to be on the show. It's really become popular."
And now we leave you with a word from their blog.
Coach Bonilla very good teaching us. We both feeling we inproving pitching here Pirate City. We very thankful for Pirate City, players and coaches. All peoples there very nice me and Rinku. Some players wanting take us to the saloon but we not doing this thing.
I would also recommend staying at least 200 yards from Jeff Reed at all times.