The rights to the improbable story of two kids from Indian villages, who won a pitching contest without even knowing the rules of baseball and were eventually drafted, have been acquired by Sony .
Rinku Singh won the Million Dollar Arm contest and was marketed to teams along with the runner-up Dinesh Patel. Both signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although the plot doesn't necessarily have the perfect ending yet -- the two pitched 20 innings combined of rookie-A baseball this season -- the fact that they are even on the same playing field with people who have been playing baseball for their entire lives.
Jeff Bernstein of Seven Figures Management, who founded the Million Dollar Arm contest and has served as a father figure of sorts to the two pitchers, negotiated the deal and will be portrayed in the film. The producers, Bernstein said, are slated to be Joe Roth of Roth Films and Mark Ciardi of Mayhem Pictures. Ciardi was behind many real, inspiration sports stories that made it to the big screen, including "Invincible," "The Rookie," "Miracle," and "Secretariat," which is expected to be released in the fall of 2010. The concept for the movie was first developed by Mandt Brothers Productions.
Bernstein said the rights fee was "extremely generous," but that it was more important to go with a team of people who he thought could create the most authentic reproduction. Although the two grew up in agrarian villages and not slums, Bernstein said that the success of Slumdog Millionaire certainly led to more interest in their story.
"If 'Slumdog' had not been so popular, it might have been harder for us," Bernstein said. "But that story was something that could have happened. Our story did happen."
Although Indian actors will play the two, Rinku joked that he wanted the Rock to play him and Dinesh said he'd like to be portrayed by Jason Bourne, also known as Matt Damon. In addition to the movie, Bernstein said he is also in negotiations for a book and a television documentary as well that will come out around the same time as the movie.
Bernstein, Singh and Patel head back to India today for the first time since they left in March 2008 partly to promote the second year of Million Dollar Arm, which will begin in November and run through May. Bernstein said the goal is to draw 1 to 3 million kids in the contest that seeks to find the Indian pitcher who can throw the fastest fastball.
Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com